Today, in Mercy, Numbers gives us this beautiful verse:
(I leave just that with you, to pray with if you wish, because I am cheating a bit tonight. I want to run ahead to prepare for the O Antiphons. So I am sending a second reflection to encourage you to run there with me.)
Music for today’s passage:
If Not Now, Then When – Tracy Chapman – a song perhaps reflective of our impatience with God to perform the miracles that we might want. (Lyrics below)
If not now then when? If not today then Why make your promises ? A love declared for days to come Is as good as none.
You can wait ’til morning comes. You can wait for the new day. You can wait and lose this heart. You can wait and soon be sorry.
Now love’s the only thing that’s free. We must take it where it’s found. Pretty soon it may be costly.
If not now what then? We all must live our lives Always feeling Always thinking The moment has arrived!
Today, in Mercy, on this Memorial of St. Domenic, our first reading gives us a lesson in failure. It is a situation we all face in life. If you haven’t, then you aren’t trying hard enough.
In our reading today, even the great Moses fails. But, you might ask, hasn’t he failed a number of times already? The smashed commandments, the golden calf, the complaints about manna? These were all human frustrations and inadequacies Moses would not have chosen.
Today’s failure is different. It is a failure in leadership. Any leadership role we hold, we hold in the name of God. We are parents, employers, teachers, pastors, religious leaders, supervisors, captains, managers…and so on. The cloak of responsibility covers each one of us at various times in our lives. Wearing it, we put on God’s trust in us to honor Him and those he has given us.
When Moses and Aaron asked God to give the people water, God said,
Take your staff and assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron, and in their presence order the rock to yield its waters. From the rock you shall bring forth water for the congregation and their livestock to drink.
Moses, caught in his own frustrations, did as God said but not before castigating the community and striking the rock twice.
So what?, you might say.
Here’s the “What”. These acts betray Moses’ failure to trust God and to give God honor before the community. Perhaps unwittingly, Moses made it look like he was the one who summoned the water.
This reading calls us to always give God the glory. We are never really in charge of anything. We just do our best to make a path for life, goodness, love and wholeness.
If, through a leadership role, we are called to assist God in re-creating the world, let us do it with exquisite humility, trust, reverence, intentionality and praise.
Today, in Mercy, we have the first of a few readings from the Book of Numbers. Numbers is basically about two themes: journeying and maturing as a community of faith.
Numbers is the fourth book of the Bible, part of the five which comprise the Pentateuch, or Hebrew Torah. We can think of these books as a kind of Jewish “Roots”, for those who are familiar with the Alex Haley classic.
In the Pentateuch, both Jews and Christian find the foundational bedrock of their faith story. Today’s chapter focuses on two realities of faith and community: leadership and fidelity.
The People are having trouble staying committed to the journey. They are tired, hungry and walking around in circles. They are hungry for something besides manna, the way we become hungry for more than our dailyness.
Like most frustrated groups, they start busting on their leader – Moses. Moses, unwilling to carry their burdens alone, starts busting on God. Watch any TV drama for a similar plot/theme. As a matter of fact, let’s examine our lives for it.
Enduring commitment is hard, especially when it is tested. When our commitment seems meaningless, or ignored, or misinterpreted, or otherwise futile, what do we do? How do we re-examine and re-define the fundamental relationship of faith which informs that commitment.
This re-examination and deeper re-commitment is what the Israelites experience through their desert journey, until they are ready to pass into the Promised Land as God’s People.
It is what we experience as a person of faith and as a faith community. Commitment is never static. In life’s test chamber, it either grows or diminishes. Praying with these passages from the Sacred Scripture may help us to grow deeper in our faith and trust. They may help us find the center if we feel a little hungry and lost in the desert too.
Music: Guide Me, Thou, O Great Redeemer
This hymn is the English version of a melody written by the Welshman John Hughes in 1909. The text was composed in 1745 by William Williams, considered Wales’ most famous hymnist. As a writer of poetry and prose,he is also considered today as one of the great literary figures of Wales. For an interesting history of the hymn, click here.