Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Grumbling and Mumbling

07-12-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

We can unofficially add to the Church’s Liturgical seasons of Easter Time, Christmas Time, Ordinary Time: COVID Time. Probably not the innovation you were hoping for but as this Pandemic drags on the patience and waiting of an Advent is definitely required! We are used to hearing the Biblical stories of waiting and waiting some more for God’s Plan to come to fruition. The Hebrews had to wander 40 years in the desert before entering the Promised Land. All during that time, Moses was frequently confronted by their lack of patience. After Moses had led his people through the parted Red Sea, they no sooner started complaining that the conditions were awful and they were better off alive as slaves in Egypt than dead as free people in the desert. And when the people were running low on fresh water they complained to Moses to the point of near riot.

So, God said to Moses, “you see that rock over there? Take your staff and strike it once and water will "ow from it.” Moses, goes to the rock and strikes it once, but with the people breathing down his neck, he decided to strike the rock a second time. Out comes the water but then God says to Moses, “didn't I tell you to strike the rock just once? Then why did you have to strike it twice?”. God then tells Moses that he will be a dying old man by the time he and his people learn about trusting Divine Providence, and get to the Promised Land. It would take that long for the people to stop relying on their self-confidence, their cleverness and their planning process and learn to trust God for every next step. Despite all the proofs that God was with him, facing down Pharaoh, the Plagues, the parting of the Sea, Moses still hesitated, doubted, lost confidence and trust in God.

I have to admit, at times I have struck the rock more than once. And every second strike is a failure to trust God. I know it and yet I still hesitate at times. I am sure most of us have done the same and none more so than during this Pandemic and times of social unrest in our land. So, like the Hebrews of old we find ourselves in the desert, striking the rock again and again because we want the water now. For those of us who live in the Sonoran Desert, we know it is a harsh and unfriendly place at times: intense heat, plants like the cactus and creatures like scorpions, rattlesnakes and black widow spiders are not neighbors you want to get too close to.

But it's the spiritual side of the desert experience that is the biggest challenge. For the ancients it caused them to long for the past, romanticizing the way things were, glossing over their servitude in favor of their comfort. And mostly fighting every step of the way what God was trying to do for them and with them. It would take them 40 years to finally realize their identity as the People of God. Once they accepted their identity then and only then did the Promised Land become a reality. For them the Promised Land was a geographical place. For us, the Promised Land, aka the Kingdom of God, is a spiritual reality. And every one of these “desert experiences” we have brings us closer to the Kingdom, closer to being in possession of our unique identity as the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

For us as Catholics, much of the structure that we rely on, the outward signs of our faith are greatly diminished because of the restrictions caused by the Pandemic. And part of the challenge for us, is to still be who we say we are as when we have things in full operation. In the absence of all our Catholic rituals, traditions, and customs, what does being a Catholic really mean?

Now is a good time for all of us to take some personal inventory. How are we doing as Catholics without the weekly Mass gathering? How are we doing without all the familiar things that give structure and discipline to our spirituality? Has Sunday become like every other day? What’s your prayer life like these days? In the absence of Parish ministries how do you continue to serve? How do you continue to give? And even though it is less than ideal, am I connected virtually when physical connection is not possible or prudent?

Right now, it seems the whole world has invested itself in locating the splinter in everyone else’s eyes. Is that you? Have you gotten around to taking the beam out of your eye?

Pray, Serve, Give, Connect. Still. Even during Pandemics.

COVID Time probably won’t last 40 years, and already it has been way too long. But while it does last, don’t doubt that God is doing something with us and for us. The place where Moses struck the rock, was called Meribah and Massah, which roughly translates, Grumbling and Mumbling. It seems like our entire world is at the place of Grumbling and Mumbling, discontent and contentious. Are you living in the Promised Land or in the land of Grumbling and Mumbling?

For us, as Christians, we need not strike the rock twice. Once is enough.


Fr. John B.