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The second reading for this 18th Sunday in ordinary times, which is taken from chapter 16 of the book of Exodus, details how the Israelites responded to the challenges of danger, shortages, and inconvenience on their way to freedom and, in many ways, question how we respond to the challenges of positive change in our lives. The journey of growth rarely happens without obstacles, difficulties, and tribulations. Change and growth involve pain which often leads to stress, so much so that, very often, the temptation is to fall back to where we started, to give up on the effort, to give up on our goals, and to find a quick escape route. Usually, complaining is the common tool of choice; blaming others and things for our woes rather than taking responsibility and facing the challenges before us.

Life has a way of perfecting what we practice. What we do very often, we will also get good at. If we complain and blame people and things about where we are in life, we will, sooner than later, get good at it. In fact, we will get so good at it that we will find something or somebody to blame for every difficult situation in our lives. They Israelites had complained when they were faced with crossing the Red Sea. Then they complained about being in the desert, and in this reading, they complained about not having bread. Next, they will complain about water, then about meat, then about Moses and Aaron, etc. What is lost in this new found spirit of complaining is the goodness of the Lord; all that the Lord had done to set them free from slavery. All they could see was material lack; all they could notice was what was not done; all they were interested in was to complain. No expression of gratitude for blessings received and no expression of trust in the God who was delivering them from slavery into freedom. Complaining kills the spirit of responsibility, gratitude, and appreciation.

It is very easy to negate the efforts of others; to forget the good others have done for us and the blessings we have received from the Lord, and to focus mostly on people’s deficiencies, what was not done, and our material lack. Unfortunately, a complainer rarely finds opportunity to be grateful and to express gratitude. There is so much good and blessings around us and so much that God and others have done for us. What we chose to focus on will determine how we respond to life. May the good Lord help us focus our lives on gratitude, for the more we see goodness for which we are grateful, the more good things are likely to come our way and abide with us!

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