God heard the cry of his people who were suffering from enslavement in Egypt. God called and sent Moses to free them. Pharoah did not accept the request of Moses to let his people go and instead put more pressure on his slaves to fulfill their daily quota of bricks as before, though now without providing the straw that they needed to accomplish the task (cf. Exodus 5). The Hebrew slaves did not take out their frustrations on their oppressors but on Moses. This pattern of complaint continued time and again, even after their freedom was assured and they wandered in the desert. Even thought they were free, they complained regularly when things got tough, and stated that they were better off in their slavery and dependency on the Pharaoh instead of placing their trust and dependency on God.
God the Father sent his Son to free us from our slavery to sin, just as he sent Moses to free the Hebrews enslaved under Pharaoh. How many times do we, like our ancestors, also complain, preferring our life of sin, a life of mere existence, over embracing the gift of a life lived to the full because it is what we know. Even worse there are too often those in positions of spiritual leadership who abuse their power, look out for their own interests, instead of guiding and serving the people entrusted to their care.
Jesus is recorded in today’s Gospel addressing those who are missing, “how God has made his will known to the people, 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” (Jn 5:37-38). God the Father has sent his Son to reveal his will but too many do not have eyes to see or ears to hear.
Those who are learned “search the Scriptures, because [they] think [they] have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But [they] do not want to come to me to have life” (Jn 5:39-40). What is hidden in the Hebrew Scriptures is revealed in the New Testament: the New Covenant made with Jesus and all of creation. The prophecies of old testify that the Messiah will come as a suffering servant, he will unify the nations, cleanse the Temple, and the enemies of God will be placed at his feet. These affirmations are presented and known by those who study the sacred texts, yet they still do not recognize the signs that the Messiah is in the very midst of them.
Even Moses testified of Jesus when he said: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kindred, and will put my words into the mouth of the prophet; the prophet shall tell them all that I command” (Deuteronomy 18:18). Yet the successors of Moses would not even believe in his writings, so Jesus said how would they believe in his words?
Jesus shows us in our Gospel reading today how the people of his time could have known he was who he claimed to be. This is true for us today as well. If we are sincerely seeking God who has and continues to make his will known, we will find him in philosophy, mathematics, the sciences, literature, his creation, in our service to each other, in truths of other faith traditions, but the fullness of the Father is revealed in our encounter of him through his Son, “whom he has sent”. Do we have eyes to see or will we miss God’s invitation because we do not believe in “the one whom he has sent”?
Jesus is also revealed in Scripture, the Old and New Testaments. To understand the New Testament we must understand the Old, for Moses and the prophets testify to his coming and Jesus came not to abolish but to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Do we leave the Bible on the shelf like any other book? If we do read it, do we do so as if it were a dead letter, or do we read and hear it as it is truly meant to be read and heard, as the living Word of God proclaimed? We are more than a people of the book. We are a people of encounter.
The Father makes himself known to us through the presence of his Son and the love of the Holy Spirit. To experience the truth of this reality we need to do accept his invitation to relationship. As we reach out to God, we come to realize that he is already present and reaching out to us through his Son. We do not need to run to God, because he is already running to meet us, waiting to hold us in his loving embrace, now and forevermore!
Photo of the apse, the semi-circular area behind the altar of St Edwards, Palm Beach, FL