A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend who had recently returned from a family vacation. Of course, I asked him how the vacation was and how everything went. He explained that the weather was poor, rainy and often very hot and humid. The cabin they were staying in wasn’t very comfortable. He said the beds were poor and he slept badly, the children were usually unhappy and one of them fell and cut her knee that became a big deal. He went on
to speak negatively about his weeks’ vacation and concluded his answer by exclaiming that the toaster had burnt his English muffin that morning.
Well, we all complain and often we have a good reason for doing so. Sometimes it’s just to let off steam after some nasty traffic or a bad experience at the dentist or what have you. Yet we all know some of us can be experts at complaining and seem to delight in emphatically whining about all kinds of things to whomever will listen.
In the Bible, there are a number of instances of people complaining, – usually complaining to God. Sometimes the complaining is really dramatic like, “I’ve had it God, let me die rather than continue like this”! Sometimes the complaining is in the form of a question from one of the apostles to Jesus like: “We have given up a lot to follow
you, what’s in it for us?”
As I think about the times I have been complaining, I now start to see them as moments when everything is about me. That is, I want to tell you about times when I was uncomfortable, dissatisfied, frustrated, and inconvenienced. However, as I look back on those times there is always more to the story. There is something bigger than my issues at play in whatever is happening in my life. Some of it is the adage – glass half full or glass half empty metaphor which is excellent. In addition, it is about what we choose make of circumstances in which we find ourselves. For example, you may have heard the expression, “If you’re dealt lemons, make lemonade! “
I think complaining is not ever a satisfying response to the issues in which we live every day. I believe God knows about those issues and absolutely has a bigger plan in mind— but I need to be open to it and get out of my own way and my
own self-absorption. There can be opportunities that are amazing and truly delightful, often new approaches, experiences, and people available when my complaining ceases and my wonder at the possibilities increases.
In the end, we are all the work of God’s hands, hands that are loving and want only the very best for each one of us. This does not mean that suffering, setbacks, inconveniences, and losses are not part of that journey; and all of our lives include those experiences. Nevertheless, I believe it does mean that God is never absent and the more we lean into God’s love and mercy the more our complaints might just yield beautiful surprises.
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 21-22, 2021
In today’s Gospel, we hear that a number of Jesus’ followers left him because his
message was too difficult for them to accept. In essence, they did not believe in him.
He then asked the Twelve if they wished to leave as well.
Peter responds by making a profound profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The Twelve made a choice and stood by their choice, remaining loyal to their commitment to Jesus.
A good question for our reflection might be this:
Are we satisfied with the stewardship we exercise over our baptismal commitment?
Are we just “along for the ride?”
Are we keeping Christ in front of us as we make decisions about our daily activities, our
relationships, our parish, issues in the workplace, issues such as peace and justice?
What is the quality of our stewardship