A Reflection for the Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Today’s passage is a story from the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt towards the Promised Land. At one point, their patience is “worn out by the journey,” and they complain against God and their leader Moses: “‘Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!’” In response, God sends them deadly serpents to punish them. Then the people come to Moses and say, “We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you. Pray the Lord to take the serpents away from us,” which God does.
This reading reminds me of how often I complain about what God gives me - God’s will for me - just like the Israelites did. For example, I am a senior, and before this year I was hoping for an easy senior year, cruising to the finish line. But instead I got a challenging senior year. You bet I have grumbled and complained about it, both externally and internally. But what this reading reminds me is that complaining is a sin. Although God will probably not send me deadly serpents like the Israelites if I complain, and I can have faith that God will have mercy on me like the Israelites if I repent, complaining is still disrespecting God. When I tell God the equivalent of “We are disgusted with this wretched food,” something like, “Ugh, the weather is nasty today,” or, “Why do I have so much homework!,” I imply that God’s will is not good enough for me. I would prefer my will to God’s. Yet Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray for God’s will to be done because that is always what is best for us.
Even if God’s will is a cold, gray, rainy day, or a long night hunched over my desk doing homework, I should not complain, but lovingly accept it as a gift from God. Although easier said than done - the gate is narrow and the way is hard, after all - it is not impossible with God’s help. Therefore, the next time I am tempted to say something like “I am disgusted with this wretched food,” let me instead give thanks to God for this gift I am not able to appreciate yet, this opportunity to strengthen my faith by lovingly accepting what seems repulsive to me. For it is truly right and just.