It’s surprising to see how God responds to the complaints of the Israelites. We expect to receive sympathy when we complain. Instead, God sends a punishment on the Israelites when they complain. What exactly did the Israelites complain about? They were complaining about the miraculous food that God provided them: the mana. I think it’s pretty hard not to complain at all about anything ever, though I’m sure that’s a way to holiness. Perhaps one thing we can learn from this passage is to be careful when we start to complain – the Israelites were literally complaining about a miraculous gift from God because it wasn’t delicious. Anyone who has ever been really hungry knows that hunger pains can be solved by putting absolutely anything in your stomach. That is why, in places where there is quite literally not enough food, people will eat dirt just so they do not feel hungry. The Israelites are clearly not starving because they are complaining about how the food tastes. Rashi, a rabbinical commentator on this passage, states that the Israelites were lusting after fatty, heavy, meaty foods – the foods of their former slavery. God gave them the mana, a subtle, lighter fare, so that when eating it their minds might be clearer and their hearts lighter so as to rise to spiritual thoughts and contemplation, rather than focused inwardly on their stomachs. The Israelites are punished because when their needs were met sufficiently by a miraculous food, they did not respond in faith to seek spiritually the Lord of their hearts.
The Christian way of life is not just better than the ways of the world because of the eternal consequences of our actions, it is also the best way to live life in this world. It is not better because it provides some kind of immediate pleasure, or even because it is the most useful way to live. The Christian way of life is the most meaningful way to live, the Christian way of life is a path of true wisdom. Our core principle of “quality education” speaks to the value we place on wisdom. Wisdom, on the one hand, is about knowing the most important truths about life: we are made for happiness, and that happiness can only be achieved in a personal reciprocal relationship with a good equal or superior to ourselves. Only another person can bring us to the full development of our minds and hearts, and nothing less than another person could be worthy of the gift of ourselves. Human wisdom teaches us that this other person is what we consider to be a true friend. Practically, that wisdom also guides us into developing and maintaining true human friendships. Practically, that wisdom leads us to become virtuous.
Vigilance is one of the twelve virtues of Lasallian teachers – that means your Lasallian educators are paying special attention to your welfare: keeping you safe and watching out for you. It is a virtue that even those of us who are not educators must develop and some day will be our responsibility. You will notice in today’s first reading how vigilant St. Paul is about the new Christians in Thessalonica that have been entrusted to his care. His vigilance is especially expressed in prayer: “Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith.” St. Paul basically says that it would kill him if the Thessalonians lost their faith: “For we now live, if you stand firm in the Lord.”