Focus On What Matters
Thoughts on the First Readings –Joe
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus16:2-4, 12-15

Everyone wants to live in a land of milk and honey but nobody wants the exhausting desert trek it takes to get there.

Were the Israelites who had for generations inhabited ancient Egypt’s strip of Nile-watered green ignorant of what awaited them beyond the country’s border? Not likely. What was going on then?

The scriptural authors wanted to highlight our tendency to elevate minor difficulties to the level of the tragic when it distracts us from a challenge that we want to avoid.

Each step, from deciding to leave Egypt for Canaan to the task of developing then defending their small nation from surrounding super powers was immense. Never were the Hebrews truly secure. Fully aware of this they were constantly tempted to toss in the towel and use the slightest reversal as justification for taking a dive. We were safer and had better food as slaves in Egypt sounded pretty reasonable in the middle of a cold desert night with the sound of prowling animals close by.

If you want something important, you have to go all out for it, we tell children. Countless songs, plays, novels, sermons and graduation addresses make this point. It’s the central idea of nearly every religion, certainly of Christianity. It’s a core tenet of all human wisdom. The ultimate something that we encourage one another to go all out for is the world of our dreams. Faith names it God’s promise.

The world is full of things to complain about. We each have a long list. A goal of spirituality, however, is to distinguish nuisances and irritations from profound problems. It gives us the strength to step out from behind peripheral dislikes and provocations to face the central challenge of living justly and lovingly. Success depends on our prayerfulness and a wise, caring community.