Complaining about Manna

In today’s first Mass reading from the Book of Numbers, Moses has to deal with the complaint of the people of Israel. Specifically, the people are unhappy with the manna God has provided for them to eat, lamenting about the various foods they used to eat in Egypt.

It is useful to set their complaint in context. The Israelites, remember, had been enslaved in Egypt – for a very long time. God delivered them from slavery. In the desert, they complained they were hungry, so God sent manna.

Now the Israelites are complaining about the manna. You get the impression listening to this reading that if God responded to their complaints by sending something else for them to enjoy, it wouldn’t be long before they complained about that.

I speak often of the importance of the practice of gratitude. The world would be a very different place if we saw everything as gift.

David Steindl-Rast, in a wonderful video, talks about grateful living. Grateful living means that

every moment of your life you practice gratefulness. You practice awareness that everything is gift, everything is gratuitous, and if it’s all given, gratuitously given, then the only appropriate response is gratefulness What we really want is joy. We don’t want things. We don’t want to accumulate things. We forget that, and so gratefulness can help us see that, can help us realize that.

In the absence of grateful living, whatever we have is not enough. We always want more.

But if we practice grateful living, we don’t complain about the sameness of the manna, we give thanks that we have food to eat. We don’t complain that our water is not hot enough, we give thanks we have water. We don’t complain about traffic, we give thanks we have the ability to travel where we need to go. And so on.

If we practice “awareness that everything is gift,” then we have enough, not matter that is.