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Thursday – Fourth Week – Lent
Readings: Exo 32:7-14; Jn 5:31-47.
Reading 1 (Exo 32:7-14):
The LORD said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,
sacrificing to it and crying out,
‘This is your God, O Israel,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt!'”
The LORD said to Moses,
“I see how stiff-necked this people is.
Let me alone, then,
that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.
Then I will make of you a great nation.”
But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,
“Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people,
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt
with such great power and with so strong a hand?
Why should the Egyptians say,
‘With evil intent he brought them out,
that he might kill them in the mountains
and exterminate them from the face of the earth’?
Let your blazing wrath die down;
relent in punishing your people.
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel,
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 your descendants as their perpetual heritage.'”
So, the LORD relented in the punishment
he had threatened to inflict on his people.
Gospel (Jn 5:31-47):
Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.
“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: The spiritual leader loves people to the end.
Spiritual leaders are easily discouraged when they face ingratitude, disobedience and betrayal of their followers; but God requires them to be patient and loyal to the end.
Today readings illustrate the leaders who sacrificed their life for people. In the Book of Exodus, God wanted to test Moses, so He told Moses to let Him destroy all the Israelites because they made and worshipped the golden calf; and then He shall give him a greater nation. Moses interceded with God to forgive people. In the Gospel, Jesus could let the Jews die in their hardness of heart; but he chose to be patient and to persuade them to believe in him by pointing out for them all witnesses who testified for him, such as: John Baptist, the Father’s voice from heaven, his works and Scripture.
1/ Reading I: Moses interceded for people before God.
1.1/ The Israelites betrayed God: Worshipping idols seriously violated the first commandment. Instead of giving thanks to God who used His power to set them free from their slavery to the Egyptians, they gave thanks to the golden calf which they made by hands, worshipped it, and said: “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Exo 32:4).
We hate the ingratitude and all the more those who steal our efforts or works; but many times, on our life we are not only ingratitude to God for His blessing and protection but also wrongly attribute them to other gods, people or our own effort.
The prophet Isaiah correctly said about the ingratitude: “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand” (Isa 1:3). In other words, the ingratitude is worse than an ox or an ass. This was the reason why God said to Moses: “Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”
1.2/ Moses interceded for the Israelites: Even though Moses wasn’t agreed of the Israelites’ sin, but he asked God to forgive them because two reasons:
(1) Because of God’s great name: If God wiped them out, the Egyptians could mock God: “With evil intent he brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains and exterminate them from the face of the earth.”
(2) Because of God’s promise with their ancestors: “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, 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 your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’”
God relented and didn’t wipe them out as He warned. To lead people, especially in a difficult situation as the Israelites wandered forty years in the desert, is a difficult task. Moses wasn’t always patient with the Israelites. He himself came and complained to God, “Why hast thou dealt ill with thy servant? And why have I not found favor in thy sight, that thou dost lay the burden of all these people upon me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I bring them forth, that thou should say to me, `Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries the sucking child, to the land which thou didst swear to give their fathers?’” (Num 11:11-12).
2/ Gospel: Jesus patiently persuaded the Jews.
In three years of preaching, Jesus often argued with the scribes and the Pharisees. People usually gives others maximum three times to recognize the truth; after that they shall not bother to explain and ignore the stubborn. Jesus was very patient with people to explain for them to believe that he is the Messiah whom they are expecting. Jesus knew that if he testifies for himself, they shall not believe it; therefore, he must follow the requirement of the law, that is: there must be two witnesses for the truth. Jesus gave them more than two witnesses for him.
(1) John Baptist: He witnessed for Jesus many times. He pointed to Jesus and said: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me’” (Jn 1:29-31). In today passage, Jesus said: “There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept testimony from a human being, but I say this so that you may be saved.”
(2) Jesus’ miraculous works: The Jews witnessed or heard about many miracles Jesus did; and they had just witnessed a miracle of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic for 38 years. These miracles required the performer to have God’s power or to come from God. Jesus explained to them: “But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.”
(3) The Father’s voice from heaven and from people’s mind: The Father twice witnessed for His Son by sending His voice from heaven in Jesus’ Baptism and Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt 3:17; 17:5). Moreover, the Father is still acting in the minds of the Jews and all the faithful to help them to recognize the truth, if they listen to His voice. Jesus gave them a reason why they didn’t recognize the Father’s voice in their mind: “The Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.”
(4) The Scripture: Jesus gave them the Scripture’s witness: “You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.”
(5) Jesus’ good intention: Lastly, if a person wishes and tries the best for others to achieve good things and he doesn’t expect any praise or favor from others, he really loves people. Jesus persuaded them to believe in him to have the eternal life because he really loves and cares for them. If they have no good intention, they shall glorify each other and ignore God’s glory, they can’t believe in him.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The spiritual leaders, priests and parents, must patiently suffer in leading people to God. They must patiently learn and explain for those whom they are responsible for.
– Their rewards aren’t praises, honor or material gains, but God Himself and the joy of leading people to Him.
– People aren’t gratitude due to many reasons: sufferings, having no basic knowledge and facing many temptations. The spiritual leaders are fortunate because God gave them knowledge and power to overcome all hardships. In turn, they must also suffer and forgive people as the Father, the Son, Moses and other spiritual leaders did for them.