Stop Murmuring!

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

If you recall last Sunday’s readings, the Hebrews were in the desert complaining to God that they didn’t have enough to eat. This Sunday, our first reading tells of the prophet Elijah complaining to God. At the limits of exhaustion, frustrated with the task God has called him to do, he basically gives up. He lies down in the desert and prays for death, saying, “This is enough, O Lord!”

Even in our gospel reading, we read of the Jews complaining about Jesus. The gospel says they “murmured about Jesus because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven,’ and they said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?'” In other words, who does this guy think he is? He can’t really help us.

Murmuring is an especially unhelpful way of complaining. When you murmur, you aren’t even complaining to make yourself heard. You are complaining merely for the sake of complaining, under your breath, sewing quiet little seeds of dissent and dissatisfaction. Jesus heard the murmuring of the Jews and said, “Enough! Stop murmuring among yourselves” (Jn 6:43).

What’s wrong with all this complaining? In each of these instances highlighted in the scriptures, the complainers were making one big mistake. They were focusing on themselves and their own problems instead of focusing on God, and so compounded the suffering they felt. This doesn’t mean their problems were not real. The Hebrews really were hungry. Elijah really was exhausted. They were not making up their pain. But the temptation is to focus so much on our own problems that we forget God always gives us what we need to persevere. Then suffering leads to despair.

The Hebrews following Moses in the desert were complaining because they were hungry. God fed them with manna from heaven. Elijah was complaining because he didn’t feel strong enough to do God’s work. God fed him with bread from angels that sustained him on his journey. The crowd listening to Jesus couldn’t believe this son of a carpenter could give his own flesh to eat. Jesus said, “I am the living bread… the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). And he gives his own Flesh in the Eucharist.

In each instance, God provides for his people. He sustains them on the journey. He provides them with nourishment. God feeds us.

This is a very important message as we approach the start of a new semester. For many of you, it may be the start of your college career. You might be away from home for the first time. You will be in an unfamiliar environment. You might struggle to make friends. You might feel like a fish out of water. You might feel crushed by the demands of your classes. Trust me — the first semester of college, you will find plenty to complain about. You may even, like Elijah, feel like giving up and saying, “This is enough, O Lord!”

But listen to Jesus. Stop murmuring. Let Christ feed you. At Catholic Campus Ministry we make the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist available every week. Take advantage of them! Come and be healed, and be fed. Be sustained. Keep your focus on God and place your problems and worries in his hands.

Let’s go into the new semester taking St. Paul’s wisdom to heart:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.  All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ (Eph 4:3-32).

  • Need inspiration to stop complaining? Fr. Mike Schmitz offers some great advice!