March 28, 2023
by Cindy Murphy McMahon
Creighton University's Office of Marketing and Communications
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 252

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21
John 8:21-30

Praying Lent Home

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Looking at Marriage in Lent

Lent as: Hearing the Cry of the Poor

To Whom or What do We Belong?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisees contains some words that jumped out at me – especially the word ‘belong’:

“He said to them, ‘You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.’”

How often do we think about belonging? And what does it mean to belong?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says a sense of belonging indicates a close or intimate relationship. Psychologists say a sense of belonging involves gaining acceptance, attention and support from members of a group and providing that same attention to other members of that group. In Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a sense of belonging is part of his major social needs that motivate human behavior.

In the first reading, the people were members of the group ‘children of Israel,’ and it seems they knew they belonged as followers of God and Moses because they complained about their situation to both God and Moses.

But this membership didn’t make up for the fact that they belonged to their earthly bodies and needs as well, and they lost hope in God’s love and concern in the face of hunger and thirst. This is actually somewhat understandable because, like Maslow states, two of the primary needs upon which all others rest are for food and water. But  perhaps given all that God had done for them up to that point, they could have summoned enough faith in their belongingness to God to trust that God would come through for them yet again.

But what about us? To whom or what do we belong?

We may belong to many groups, such as our families, our friends, special-interest groups and faith communities. We like to think we belong to Jesus, that we belong to God’s kingdom, to “what is above,” but sometimes we have to admit we may be a bit too enamored with the here and now. Still, we would probably balk at thinking we belong “to what is below” “or “to this world,” as Jesus chastises the Pharisees.

Do we primarily belong to the need to fulfill our own desires, or do we demonstrate our belonging to what is above with care for others, as Jesus tell us in John 13:35: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Do we belong to caring for God’s gift of the Earth and helping it survive and thrive, or do we belong to the mindset of continuing wastefulness and ignorance in the face of new realities?

Some days we may do a better job than other days, but it's worth thinking about and reflecting upon. Belonging is important, and it might be helpful to ruminate on the question, “To whom or what do I belong?” regularly in our minds and hearts.

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