The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“
In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” … “Comparisons are odious.” These are two old sayings which came to my mind as I listened to our first reading this morning. The Israelites definitely see the grass as having been greener in Egypt, even though they were in bondage. And they compare their bondage in Egypt to their hunger in the desert, choosing bondage as the better of two poor alternatives.
I can think of many times in my life when I have compared myself to others to no good end. In our youth we might have asked why we were not bigger and taller and stronger so we could be just as good an athlete as Johnny? In our early working career we might have asked why we were not promoted as quickly as Mike, our work was better than his? Later in life we might ask why our retirement nest egg is not as big as our neighbor: certainly we worked just as long and hard!
I can’t say that any of these comparisons have really given me freedom and fuller life. To the contrary, they have often led me to envy and a great lack of freedom. Nevertheless, naming these thoughts and bringing them to God has helped me see how they bind me and do not really address what is truly most important in life. Just as with the Israelites, God provides what I really need, not what I think I need. So let’s always remember to bring these thoughts to the Lord our God, just as we bring more positive thoughts to Him in good times.
—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits
Lord, thank you so much for never comparing me to anyone else. May I use my gifts to be faithful to my purpose in life. And should I begin to negatively compare myself to others, help me to bring such thoughts to you so I can adjust my thinking to support a heart of gratitude.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team