The Responsorial Psalm tells us how Jesus saves us: “Teach me your ways, O Lord” (Psalm 25).
Numbers 24: 2-17 Makes its point with humor. Moab was being attacked by the Jews. The king summoned Balaam, a prophet, to curse the Jewish army. But on the way the donkey Balaam was riding saw an angel standing in the path and turned off the road. Balaam beat it. Finally the donkey just lay down, and Balaam beat it some more.
Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!" But the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?" And he said, "No." Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face.
Then Balaam pronounced a blessing on Israel, not a curse: “A star shall come out of Jacob… it shall crush the borderlands of Moab…”
What we hear from God is true, even if he uses a donkey to say it! So the reading alerts us to listen. We may not like the way the lector at Mass reads God’s word or the preacher explains it; but if we don’t listen, who is the greater jackass?
In Matthew 21: 23-27 Jesus tells us that we should look for the origin of what we are asked to accept and follow. Who is saying it? Do I have reason to believe that what I am hearing is inspired by the Spirit of God? Jesus asked, “Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”
What about the advertisements we see on TV? Where are they from? From people who want to show us what will make us happy?
What about the desires the ads claim to satisfy? Aren’t these usually the “going trends” in our culture? The ads offer us what will make us look good to other people or feel that we are up there with the front runners.
But where is our society running to?
The ads appeal to our desires for pleasure, admiration, good looks, wealth, sex, power, prestige, even self-fulfillment according to the standards of our peer group. Are these God’s standards? Whose voice is coming through the donkey?
Initiative: If you want Jesus to save your life on this earth, use him! Consult him. Every time you are urged to do or buy something, ask what Jesus says about it.