This weekend’s first reading is a classic of the Lenten Scriptures. It is one of the few readings cited for being the inspiration for a Psalm. (The 95th–which we will also sing this weekend.)
The bracketed portion is the extended introduction to the reading–verses 1 & 2–that are included in the Rite of Penance number 104.
[From the desert of Sin
the whole congregation of the children of Israel
journeyed by stages, as the Lord directed,
and encamped at Rephidim.
There was no water for the people to drink.
They quarreled, therefore, with Moses and said,
"Give us water to drink."
Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me?
Why do you put the Lord to a test?"]
Then, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?”
So Moses cried out to the Lord,
“What shall I do with this people?
a little more and they will stone me!”
The Lord answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people,
along with some of the elders of Israel,
holding in your hand, as you go,
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink.”
This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah,
because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the Lord, saying,
“Is the Lord in our midst or not?”
A few thoughts …
Thirst is a powerful motivator for grumbling, complaint, and such. And who is to say that Moses was the most organized trip-planner, leading people out into a wilderness? Maybe the complaint was justified.
At any rate, Moses was open to hear the people. And God certainly did not delay his response.
This reading strikes me as doing the right thing (petitioning a need on behalf of oneself and one’s children) and perhaps doing it in the wrong way (with grumbling and discontent). So what is the takeaway for the Sacrament of Penance?
Maybe our attitude when approaching confession, penance, and sacrifice should get our attention as much as the content of our lives about which we are sorry. Perhaps it is enough to say to God: I need you. Please help me.