The art of grumbling needs little practice. Even small children are capable of grousing, whining, muttering and carping at the drop of a hat. When they don’t get their way or are in a bad humor, the grumbling begins. All of us do well to examine if we have a degree in grumbling: complaining about social, political, economic or social issues at the drop of a hat.
Moses and Aaron, in our first reading, faced a grumbling community that protested their journey into the desert where food and water were scarce. Then we are told of God’s intervention and the giving of bread from heaven. The Israelites had to deal with a major illness in life: perpetual dissatisfaction! This disease makes us vulnerable to an unhappy existence.
St. Paul was familiar with grumblers. As he traveled around the Mediterranean world and brought the good news of Jesus to the various communities, he faced opposition and dissatisfaction. But Paul, like Moses and Aaron, stayed the course and taught the people to give up their deceitful desires and their former way of life. It was by putting on the mind and heart of Christ that peace and gratitude would be experienced, countering the grumbling and dissatisfaction that attacks the soul.
Jesus came to give us life, life to the full (John 10:10). The crowds flocked to him because they witnessed in Jesus, God’s love and mercy in the flesh. Deep down the people realized that there was more to life than meets the eye. “Our hearts are restless [read dissatisfied] until their rest in Thee” [God], said St. Augustine in his “Confessions.” Jesus came to give us the food and drink that nourishes our innermost being.
Earlier this year Orbis Press published “The Way of Gratitude: Readings for a Joyful Life.” People from all walks of life — doctors, political writers, poets — offer reflections on the meaning of “thank you!” Perhaps Moses and Aaron, maybe even Jesus, would have ordered thousands of copies to distribute to grumblers. We have so much to be thankful for: the gift of creation, the gift of our redemption in Christ, the great gift of the Holy Spirit. As we gather for Eucharist, we foster the art of gratitude, taking nothing for granted. Hopefully we will witness to being a grateful community, not a grumbling one.
In Psalm 116:12 a question of supreme importance is raised: “How can I repay the Lord / for the good done for me?” Behind this question is the awareness that we are a blessed people. God has given us so much. Hopefully, the etching on our tombstone will not read: “Here lies a grumbler.” Rather, “Here lies a person of great gratitude.”
Bishop Morneau, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Green Bay Diocese, serves as sacramental minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Green Bay