Numbers 13:1-2, 25-14:1, 26-29a, 34-35
Our Exodus story continues, and I’m feeling inside myself a tremendous amount of frustration.
Before speaking of the frustration, this isn’t merely a historical story, leaving us detached and gazing at a historical event. We are connected to the story because these are our ancestors. Moreover, the story of our lives is a journey story which has strong parallels with this Exodus story. Let’s go back to the frustration.
Recall how this story begins. It begins in frustration with our ancestors being slaves in a foreign country. Through the events of liberation we move out of slavery but yet we end up moving into more frustration. We grumble. We are hungry! We grumble. We are thirsty! We grumble. We are tired of this flaky starchy manna. We grumble. We even want to go back to being slaves. Because even when we were slaves life was more predictable. And we’re frustrated. This journey story has a lot of frustration. After so many years, we finally learn how to live out in the desert, and to trust that God will give us sustenance, our children are born, our elders die, and finally we come to the Promised Land. If only it were that easy. For before us is more frustration. So today as we hear the reading we sit on the edge of the Promised Land gazing in. And after all this time, we cannot enter. We must wait some more time. We must continue our journey. But aren’t our feet tired and our bodies weary?
A couple of years ago we expanded our labyrinth here at the retreat center. A labyrinth is a walking journey prayer. It moves one from the outside to the inside and there is only one path. Retreatants frequently reflect back to me how quickly they think they are getting to their destination. However, if one continues to walk the labyrinth they realize that just as you begin getting close to your destination, the path turns. In the labyrinth you end up walking a path which leads you out, away from, and all around the destination you are trying to reach. Retreatants frequently will say how this mirrors life. The mirroring of life of the labyrinth is also the truth we see in this first reading. Just when we think we are getting to where we need to be going, God gives us a detour.
Do we not see the same issue in the Gospel? Jesus is very clear of his mission. His mission is "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel". Those are his words. Yet this woman, who is an outsider, refuses to take Jesus’ "no" seriously.
One way of looking at this story is that the need and frustration of the woman lead her to Jesus. Notice she is not disrespectful. She honors him and pays him homage, even calling him, "Lord". She does not accept Jesus’ "No". Her frustration has led her here. She stays in the frustration and keeps pushing Jesus. She will even take Jesus analogy and throw out an argument simply because of her desperation.
Have you ever had an experience of a holy frustration? Perhaps it was around issues of finance, health, or the raising of your children. If you have, I invite you to take some time today to allow these readings to speak to that experience.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is on the staff at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center, Citrus Heights, California.