Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Exodus 16,1-5.9-15

Setting out from Elim, the whole community of Israelites entered the desert of Sin, lying between Elim and Sinai -- on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt. And the whole community of Israelites began complaining about Moses and Aaron in the desert and said to them, 'Why did we not die at Yahweh's hand in Egypt, where we used to sit round the flesh pots and could eat to our heart's content! As it is, you have led us into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death!' Yahweh then said to Moses, 'Look, I shall rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people must go out and collect their ration for the day; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not. On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they have brought in, this must be twice as much as they collect on ordinary days.' Moses then said to Aaron, 'Say to the whole community of Israelites, "Approach Yahweh's presence, for he has heard your complaints." ' As Aaron was speaking to the whole community of Israelites, they turned towards the desert, and there the glory of Yahweh appeared in the cloud. Yahweh then spoke to Moses and said, 'I have heard the Israelites' complaints. Speak to them as follows, "At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart's content, and then you will know that I am Yahweh your God." ' That evening, quails flew in and covered the camp, and next morning there was a layer of dew all round the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was something fine and granular, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground. As soon as the Israelites saw this, they said to one another, 'What is that ?' not knowing what it was. 'That', Moses told them, 'is the food which Yahweh has given you to eat.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

We are immediately after the story of the exit from Egypt, of the great work of liberation made by God for his people. There is situation of discomfort. Faced with these situations and problems, Israel "complains." The use of this verb is significant. It is found in the Old Testament almost only in reference to the reaction of Israel on its way to the promised land. The verb indicates a complaint with the claim of something. The attitude of Israel does not seem to be considered negatively in itself, but because it manifests a judgment on the journey already made: Israel considers the exodus not as a path towards life, but towards death ("for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly"). The Israelites lose sight of the place they are going to; they judge the desert the place where one arrives and dies instead that a place of passage. Then the nostalgia of Egypt started: they want to go back and prefer the slavery of Egypt to the effort of the journey. Concern for food and water, fear, and fatigue make Israel forget all that God has done for them. In the desert the people of Israel do not know how to "remember", they feel alone, slaves more than before. What they can remember is only their slavery. Nostalgia eliminates the "memory" of God's work of love. Nostalgia is different from "memory", which in remembering the past helps us live in the present towards the future. In their judgment of value, Israel upset the sense of salvation operated by God, interpreting it as the path of death. How often do our lamentation and nostalgia come from a small and forgetful faith? How often do we void God's love for us because of fatigue, tiredness, disappointment, worries, and loneliness? But the Lord does not allow himself to be imprisoned by Israel's recriminations and is always ready to intervene so that what has been built is not destroyed.