Grumbling is one of the funny words that shows itself in the book of Exodus, and later in the New Testament, in reference to the Israelites spoken of in the book of Exodus. What was the nature of their grumbling and bickering? We note that they grumbled against Moses, but by extension, they therefore grumbled against God. So the bickering and complaining, the resentments and brokenness of a prideful and sinful people had both a spiritual and a sociological dimension to it, within the community of the faithful and by extension with their relationship with God.
Often we perceive this murmuring or grumbling to be a result of the very hard life and difficult tasks that came with traveling through the hot desert. Likewise, we are traveling through this life, a world moving towards its total fulfillment: the promised Land of heaven. It was difficult for the Israelites to let go of their slavery. To any reasonable person, one might mock the childishness of the Israelites for being so base, in complaining against God, after they had been given the better gift: freedom to worship God. That was the greatest gift and the purpose of all the works that God had shown to Egypt. Now having the freedom to celebrate their faith, to worship the True God in the desert, they began to resent the One they had come to worship.
What is revealed here is the mystery of iniquity that had grown within the hearts of the followers of the God of Abraham. The Israelites did not primarily wish to worship their Lord in the desert, but they wished to worship their disordered desires. No other explanation seems to be reasonable, especially considering that some Israelites wanted to return to Egypt, trading in their God for food that they considered to taste better. Was God so easily traded? Of course He was. Judas has traded the Son of God for 30 measly pieces of silver, unfaithful spouses have traded in their spouse for another or money. Universities, Hospitals, Schools, and churches have sold their Catholic Identity for grant money and political correctness, for social acceptability and pleasures. This shouldn’t shock anyone, as it’s in the nature of man to become so darkened in his heart and mind that he perceives that God is more of a burden to Worship and as a result we flee to find comfort, escapes, pleasures, in the delights of slavery (to sin).
The question we might pose to ourselves is: why are we so fickle in abandoning God for such trivial things such? We are all fickle in this regard. Even the “rich-man” who considers himself faithful in all the ways of the commandments cannot find the interior freedom to leave everything behind to follow Christ! The whole point of the law therefore is misplaced and it is all practiced in vain-glory! If to practice the law is meant to demonstrate a devotion and loving-obedience to God, than why can we, with one breath follow God’s law, and with another entirely abandon Him – as the Rich Man did?
These are the questions we ought to be asking ourselves as we enter into the spiritual discipline of Lent. We are not merely attempting to remove various sinful inclinations, a type of exercise in self-restraint. Rather we are to strike at the very root of all our sin, the very well-spring of iniquity that enables evil to perpetually arise. Sin will always return if we only cut away the evil fruits.
Man is fickle because of concupiscence. Man is weak because he is spiritually sick and disordered: all of us are disordered. We desire good and evil things over and above the infinite splendor and beauty of God Himself. That is our problem and that is what we are attempting to find healing for through grace.
I see grumbling in the life of the Church on so many levels and throughout her history. We see kingdoms divided against themselves, bickering theologians and opinionated others. I’m guilty of it and not above it: Mea Culpa. It is all a distraction from the inner-peace and introspection that ought to drive our awareness away from others and more into the polluted spring of iniquity that rises within our own veins.
Children, if we are not spending more time in self-reflection than in reflection of the faults of others, we must be assured that our criticism of others amounts to nothing more than a log in our own eye and speck in another. Begin by assuming that we are the one with the Log in our eye! It is amazing what we discover when we take this approach. If you are bothered by a person’s temperament ask yourself: “Where is that same temperament in me? It must be in me, as I am a sinner too.” Develop in this time of Lent the gift of spiritual apathy towards others (lest we are directly responsible for them). Rather fix first what is wrong from within ourselves (there is plenty of work for all of us in this regard). The fruit of this work will be more compassion towards those we find ourselves frustrated with. It will also enable us not to come to conclusions about one another based on small pieces of information.
More beautifully, self-examination will not only help us to beg the saviour to descend upon us with healing, but through this grace we will also discover that the Lord has deigned to reign within us, even as our nature is mired with dysfunction. Once we have such grace, we will become peacemakers rather than antagonistic reactionaries, demanding to be the first to receive validation. We will be proclaiming the name of Christ with apathy towards the dishonour and humiliation that come from being faithful to a world unenlightened by Him. We will be on fire for Love of God.