of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 4th, 2011
Tom Shanahan, S.J.
University Relations and Theology
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
The Israelites have had it! They are sorely tired of the wandering in the desert and we hear about it in the first reading in today’s liturgy. In this passage from the Book of Numbers, Miriam, Moses’ older sister (and like Moses a leader among the Israelite people), dies in the desert of Zin and is buried at Kadesh where the people have taken up residence. It is here that the people complain loudly about their situation: wasn’t it better in Egypt? At least there they had food and water. But here in the desert they experience hunger and thirst. What are they to do?
Moses and Aaron go to the “meeting tent” and prostrate themselves. God appears to them and tells Moses to take his staff and, with Aaron, to “order the rock to yield its waters.” The brothers go to the rock and Moses strikes the rock two times and water gushed out of the rock so the people could slake their thirst and their cattle drink.
The next words that God speaks to Moses and Aaron is a word of condemnation: “because you were not faithful to me in showing forth my sanctity before the children of Israel, you shall not lead them into the land I will give them.”
Thus Moses and his siblings, Miriam and Aaron, will not cross over into the Promised Land. The whole generation of the people led into and through the desert by the Hand of God had to pass away before the land planned for them could be occupied. The historic wandering in the desert (40 years worth) was coming to an end and the promise of the Lord was soon to be fulfilled; but Moses and his contemporaries would not be with the people in that part of their venture.
The people did indeed grumble as they had on other occasions in their journey through the desert, but the truth was that God was with them in a wonderfully intimate way in their desert ramblings. There is closeness and familiarity with God that was a high point in their collective faith. God was with them as their guide and leader. He “tented” with them: the “meeting tent” was where God resided and communicated to the journeying people through Moses. Aaron and Moses go to the “meeting tent” and God appeared to them to solve the people’s thirst issues with the miraculous gush of water from a rock no less.
It makes us consider how God is present to us. Where or how is God “tenting” with us today? Can we open ourselves, without (or with) grumbling, and recognize the intimate relationship that God wants with us, with me? How difficult it is to give over the reins to God – Moses had to strike the rock twice; God had said to “command” water to come from the rock. How do we do likewise and in doing likewise trust in our own power instead of the wondrous privilege of acknowledging God’s beauty and wisdom working in, around and through us?
Where is the thirst in my life: a thirst that leads me to a deeper and deeper relationship with the One who slakes all thirsts? God never stops being present to us and continues to invite us to seek him lovingly and faithfully – the way he cares for and treats us each moment of our lives. What a joy! What an invitation NOT to grumble.
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