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Thursday, fourth week of Lent

March 26, 2009

Blessed Thursday!

Merciful Father, may the penance of our Lenten observance
make us Your obedient people.
May the love within us be seen in what we do
and lead us to the joy of Easter.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Exodus 32:7-14 (Moses intercedes for the Israelites, who are worshipping the golden calf)
Psalm 106:19-23 “Lord, remember us, for the love You bear Your people”
+John 5:31-47 (prophesy points to Jesus as Messiah)

Our salvation hangs on what we choose to believe.

That’s just as true now as it was the day Moses pleaded for mercy for the calf-worshiping Israelites. When God proposed wiping out the nation and starting over with Moses, Moses grounded his faith on God’s own words. “Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and how You swore to them by Your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give to your descendants as their perpetual heritage’” (Exodus 32:13). In response to Moses’ faith, God relented. Then it was up to the Israelites to make their own act of faith. Moses “stood at the gate of the camp and cried, ‘Whoever is for the Lord, let him come to me!’” (Exodus 32:26). Not everyone did…

That’s more or less what happened in today’s Gospel, except this time the idolatry was much more subtle. The worship of golden calves, now only an embarrassing memory, had been replaced by the worship of popularity and national identity. “How can people like you believe, when you accept praise from one another yet do not seek the glory that comes from the One?” (John 5:44). If anything, this new idolatry was more dangerous for being harder to recognize. Like Moses, Jesus had come to stand in the gap for them (see Psalm 106:23), to deliver them from this eternal deception, this eternal death. And even as Moses called the people to come to him for salvation, Jesus lamented, “you will not come to Me that you might have life” (John 5:40).

So why should the Israelites believe Moses? Why should the Jews believe Jesus? Why should we? It’s a valid question. Many people make false claims. It’s true that “you can’t believe everything you hear”.

God confirmed Moses’ authority through signs and wonders. His staff turned into a snake, then back into a staff. His hand became leprous, then healed (Exodus 4:1-8, 29-31). He called down the plagues (Exodus 7-11). Those who challenged his authority were swallowed by the earth (Numbers 16). His brother’s staff budded and produced ripe almonds (17:16-24).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus produces the credentials God’s given Him. He points to John the Baptist first, because the Jews were already impressed by him, even thinking he might be the Messiah. John had testified to Jesus. A greater testimony, however, was the works God had given Jesus to do: healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, and preaching the good news to the poor (see Matthew 11:5). In fact it was just such a good work, healing the invalid at the Sheep Pool, that had drawn their attention to Him on this occasion! Finally, the Scriptures themselves bear witness to Jesus, laying out prophesy after prophesy that were all fulfilled in Him. Moses himself had said, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

The Prophet has come (see Acts 3:22 & 7:37). “I have come in My Father’s Name” (John 5:43). “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:26).

The evidence is in. The stakes are high. We can stake our eternal salvation on Jesus…or on something that will ultimately fail us. What, or rather, Whom, will we choose to believe?

May we come to Jesus, that we may willingly rejoice in His Light.

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