Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection 3-23-23

Fourth Week of Lent, Thursday, 3-23-23, Year A
Readings: First Reading Ex 32:7-14; Ps 106: 19-23; Gospel Jn 5:31-47
Optional Memorial: St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, Bishop
Theme: Staying the Course

How easy it is for us to change our thinking, especially when things get ordinary and routine, or there is a lack of leadership. As human beings, we are creatures of habit, but every so often we find ourselves changing our habits to something else that is, well, just different, especially when we lose leadership. We need change every so often to reinvigorate and awaken the sleepy zest in us, but without leadership, we can wander around trying to find something to grasp onto.

Changing things up every once in a while is a good thing to do, but we need to be careful what those changes are and why we want to do them. We need to be sure we are keeping ourselves in tune with good leadership and the examples we were given long ago. This is especially true when it comes to our faith.

Sometimes we can experience spiritual dryness or be intrigued about a new approach to God that comes through social media or other public forms and question the leadership of Christ and His Church. Often, we are bombarded with new thinking or secular ideas on who God is or even if God is, and that can lead us down a dark path.

In today’s readings, we see some of this with Moses and the Hebrew people, and in Christ’s time, with the Scribes and Pharisees. For the Hebrew people who have wandered through the desert and are now camped out under the mountain of the Lord, there is not much left of their former way of life, even under the oppression of Egypt. They were wanderers, living in tents, foraging for food and water, and trying to understand who or what God was to them. And, since Moses had been long delayed in coming down from the mountain, they quickly lost their new faith and returned to an old familiar one from Egypt; idle worship, replacing God with a golden calf, etc.

Moses led them out of Egypt with God working great signs and wonders to set them free, yet at the first sign of Moses’ absence, they stopped believing in their living God, even after all they had witnessed. They committed a great sin before God in worshiping an idle. When Moses returned with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, he rescued them from God’s wrath, but he accused them of great sin before God, and thus the Hebrew people were punished by having to wander the desert for 40 years.

For Jesus, the same is true for the scribes and Pharisees who did not believe in Jesus as God’s Son. Even after all they had witnessed in the signs and wonders Jesus performed, they still lacked the faith to save themselves. Instead of fashioning a golden calf like, their ancestors did in the desert with Moses, they put their faith in the law, not believing in Jesus’s words of salvation. They stopped following divine leadership and followed earthly leadership just as the Hebrews did in not following Moses. Jesus will accuse those who do not believe before His Father, just as Moses accused the Hebrew people before God in his time.

Moses saved his people by interceding with God on their behalf and sparing their lives from an immediate and ultimate death in body and soul. This prefigures Jesus’ intercession on our behalf by suffering death on the cross for our sins, sparing us from immediate and ultimate death in body and soul due to our sins.

God forgave the Hebrew people and offered them salvation once again, as did Christ on the cross for us.

The question for us today is, have we, too, begun to fashion our own golden calf or law and stopped following Christ and His Church? The Hebrews had Moses, the scribes and Pharisees had Jesus, and we have all the scriptures through the Church. Are we heeding these or are we fashioning our own golden calf?

Change can be good in the right circumstances, but staying the course with faith in God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is a narrow path to salvation we need to stay on. Never stray from the leadership and teaching of Christ as disseminated by the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Stay the course. Do not be swayed by the passing thoughts and desires of the day.

“Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching.”
Hebrews, 13:7-9

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL