14Mar 14 March. Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

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Exodus 32:7ff. Though his people are stubborn, Moses begs God to forgive and give them another chance.

Jn 5:31ff. John the Baptist was like a shining lamp, but Jesus throws even more light on the way to God.

First Reading: Exodus 32:7-14

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'” And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Gospel: John 5:31-47

“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

Intercessor for his people

In Deuteronomy, God complains to Moses about the people of Israel: how stiff-necked they were. God even calls them YOUR people, instead of the customary MY people. There seems to be a real  prospect of God abandoning his stubborn people in order to begin again building a new chosen nation through Moses and his sons. But in this critical moment Moses identifies so closely with his stubborn people that he is prepared to risk his own salvation in order to fulfil his  responsibility to them as the one who led them out of Egyptian slavery. He intercedes so wholeheartedly for them that he wins mercy and forgiveness for them. What a wonderful lesson in pastoral  leadership on the day that we have a new pope, the kindly and humble Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina, who will now lead our Church under the name of pope Francis.

Like Moses and the prophets, Jesus thought and reflected continuously about God’s ways with mankind. Both Jesus and the early church patiently and carefully worked through the various reasons why and how things should be done or avoided. This response is built on compassion and genuine love. When faced with hostile criticism, Jesus appeals to  the inspiration of God his Father within the mind of each person, and to the Scriptures. We may confidently hope for a persuasive leadership of this kind from our newly elected bishop of Rome.

Inner conviction based on experience and sustained by a sense of being directed by the Lord, will lead us in the best direction. A spirit of serenity prompts us to persevere and will enables us, perhaps in the next generation as in Moses’ case, to cross the river Jordan and enter the promised land. We pray that our new Holy Father will be less concerned with winning arguments than people’s hearts for God.