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?John 5:47
In today’s first reading, freed from slavery the Israelites are wandering in the desert. Surviving slavery, witnessing the plagues, the parting of the red sea, but more importantly, how God did not forget them, His people, yet, they quickly forgot Him who saved them. Moses leaves them to commune with God on top of Mt. Sinai, (a period of about forty days). In their perceived fear of abandonment, the Israelites ask Aaron to build the golden calf. “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.” They would rather worship human creations, something they can see right now, rather than wait for God who has freed them and is taking them to the promise land.
In the Gospel, the Pharisees, present a façade of faithfulness but Jesus knows, “I know that you do not have the love of God in you.” They have had many witnesses that give evidence to who Jesus is, the writings of Moses (“But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”), John the Baptist (“for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.“), the miracles of Jesus, and yet they refuse to see God in any of these things. “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.” They worship their golden calf of pride, strict rules and empty encouragement; they too have turned away from God.
In both passages, the Israelites and the Pharisees believe they can attain the promise land or achieve eternal life on their own. We are not always wiser. Let us learn from Jesus, from scripture, from the witnesses in our lives, from the sacraments, from tradition, and from the personal relationship that the Father calls us to have with himself, that the way, the truth, and the life is through Jesus.
In this season of lent, as we wait, as we journey further into the desert, as Jesus accompanies us, have courage and faith that the one who brought you to this point has not abandoned you, will not abandon you. Friends, believe that although you may not hear his voice, see the signs you want, have not heard a full yes or a full no, the Father’s promises are true. Believe that in your hearts, and strive to live a calling that witnesses to the immeasurable faithfulness and love of the Father. “The LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened.” His grace and his mercy are abundant and because of it, we are saved.