As we hear at today’s Holy Mass, the Lord Jesus chose Saints Simon and Jude as two of His twelve Apostles.
St. Jude eventually wrote a letter to the Christian faithful, which can be found in the New Testament; it is the next-to-last book of the Bible.
In his letter, St. Jude tells us to avoid “Balaam’s error.”
[Imagine you’re in Catholic school and the priest is asking you…] Anyone ever been sitting watching t.v., or playing a video game, and mom says, “Time to do this!” or dad says, “Time to do that?” Anybody ever been in a group of friends, and someone starts talking about another person behind his or her back, making fun of that person? Anyone ever been working on schoolwork, and then suddenly a friend calls or shows you something, or you do a web-search, and suddenly there’s a quick and dirty way to print out something to turn in, even though it’s not really my own work at all?
Balaam was an ancient priest, way before Jesus came and gave us the Mass, way before the Temple in Jerusalem was even built. Balaam lived in what is now the Holy Land, before the Israelites came back from Egypt. One of the pagan kings wanted Balaam to sacrifice to the gods and then curse the people of Israel.
Balaam knew that it was not the right thing to do. He knew that God had chosen the Israelites to form a covenant with the human race. So, at first, Balaam refused.
But the pagan king tried to sweeten the deal. He put more pressure on Balaam. “Come on. Curse the Israelites! I will make it worth your while.”
So Balaam hedged. He knew it was wrong, but he thought, “Well, let me just go and see the king, and we’ll see what happens.” He thought maybe he could compromise between right and wrong, and that way he could have his cake and eat it, too. He could be holy and popular. He could be righteous and rich.
So Balaam got on his donkey to go to the king. But once they got on the road, the donkey kept swerving off to the side. So Balaam beat the donkey mercilessly. “Come on, animal!” Then the donkey kept lying down in the road. So Balaam beat the donkey more, and yelled at it.
Then a miracle occurred, and the donkey spoke, and more or less said, “Look, man. Even I, a donkey, know that you are not doing the right thing. When it comes to doing the will of God, and avoiding sin, you can’t compromise. I’m just trying to keep you out of trouble here.”
No compromises with temptation. Our own donkeys will have it over us, if we think we can please both God and the devil at the same time.