Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
The prophet Balaam is the protagonist in one of my favorite Bible stories—Balaam and his inscrutable donkey (see Numbers 22:22–40, which precedes today’s first reading).
When God sent an angel to stand in the road to detain the determined Balaam, the donkey saw the celestial being and drew back, fearful. Not until God opened the prophet’s eyes and caused the wise little donkey to speak did Balaam repent of his foolish mission.As children of God, we often act on negative motivations like pride, fear, or simple desire—and just as often, live to regret it. What a blessing it is, then, when a courageous soul steps up to block our path, to speak words that challenge and even deter us from doing what we know in our hearts is wrong.
The evil one does all he can to dissuade us from listening to God’s harbinger of joy. After all, he wants to hold those regrets over us, to keep us ashamed and running away from God.
But God does not hold against us the mistakes of the past, and it is not beyond this “hound of heaven” to send us signs to get our attention and put us back on the right path. As Mother Teresa reminds us, we can defeat the stranglehold of evil with joyful hearts.
Joy is one of the best safeguards against temptation. The devil is a carrier of dust and dirt and he uses every opportunity to throw what he has at us. But joy protects us from this dirt. Jesus is with us there in our joy.
Perhaps there is someone in your life who has wandered away from the path, who needs a little encouragement to leave the past in the past and start over. Are you willing to be God’s little donkey and speak words of courage and reconciliation?
A Moment to Reflect
• Is there anything you did that you now regret and need to tell God about—possibly in confession?
• How will you practice joy in the face of temptation?
A Moment to Pray
Heavenly Father, sometimes life would be much easier if you sent an angel to stand in my way each time I was about to go down a wrong path!
Instead you wait patiently for me to ask for help and forgiveness. Thank you for your mercy and your love.
In Mother Teresa’s Own Words
We are called to live the love of God, not to feel the love of God. We live this love through prayer and action. Our work is the fruit of our prayer, so that if our work is not going well, we must examine our prayer life.
If we neglect our work or are harsh, proud, moody, and angry, then we should examine our prayer life. We will see that something has gone wrong there.