In the final weeks of Lent we listen to John’s Gospel, which describes Jesus visiting Jerusalem a number of times to celebrate different Jewish feasts. In John’s gospel today, according to commentators, Jesus is in Jerusalem celebrating the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which took place 7 weeks after Passover. (John 5, 31-47)
The Jewish feast goes by different names today. It’s called Shavuot, meaning weeks, which originally celebrated the beginning of the barley harvest, but now recalls especially Moses handing on the law to the Jews as he comes down from Sinai. This year the Jewish feast occurs from Thursday, May 25 to sundown on Saturday, May 27. The Christian feast of Pentecost begins on the evening of May 27 this year.
Our first reading today recalls the descent of Moses from Sinai to an unbelieving people.”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,” God says to him. (Exodus 34:7-14)
But Moses pleas for his people, lest Egypt be convinced the God of Israel is cruel. Moses also recalls God’s covenant made to Abraham. On this feast Jesus appears as the new Moses, pleading for forgiveness for his people and promising to open the graves of the dead.
The miracles and works of healing Jesus performed testify for him. The scriptures, long searched by the Jews as the way to eternal life “testify on my behalf,” Jesus says. Above all, his heavenly Father, who through an interior call draws to his son those who are humble, speaks for him.
Faith in Jesus still comes in these ways. John the Baptist and Moses still point Jesus Christ out. I note that Shavuot today is a feast given to study of the Torah, the law of Moses. Jewish feasts, like Shavuot, also help us approach him. Our heavenly Father draws us to his son. In lent, the voice of the Father says once more: “listen to him.”
We’re reminded by scholars that in these passages from John’s Gospel, “the Jews” who condemned Jesus were a powerful group that turned against him, not the Jewish people. We approach the mystery of God together with them.
I come to you
who have given so much to me. You know “my inmost being” and “all my thoughts from afar.” I want to listen to you
and be changed by what I hear. Amen.
Truly, faith is God’s good gift.
Reason alone will not give faith.
With each word in prayer I lift,
I nourish and strengthen faith.
In humility, I say.
I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.