Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
We heard a lot about people struggling in our scriptures today. In the first reading, the Jewish people were struggling as they crossed the long, dry desert on their way to the Promised Land. They were struggling and grumbling and wanting to return to Egypt where at least they had food and shelter, and they were questioning whether God was still walking with them. They weren’t remembering what God had already done for them, like:
- arranging for their escape from slavery in Egypt
- leading them in the dark of night with a pillar of fire in the desert
- feeding them with manna each day.
In the second reading, the Pharisees were struggling with who this man Jesus claimed to be. Yes, they certainly saw the amazing works and miracles he did, but their eyes and their hearts were closed to God who actually walked among them. Their memories should have been shaken when Jesus said:
“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM”
That phrase “I AM” is God’s name. “I AM” was the answer God gave to Moses when Moses asked who was authorizing him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into freedom. The Jewish people of Jesus’ day should have remembered that event and recognized the phrase “I AM” when Jesus said it. Jesus was trying to tell the leaders that he too was sent by God and that God was in their midst. The leaders didn’t believe, but those who were open to his words did come to believe. No doubt the believers continued to have their struggles, but they could now be comforted knowing God walked with them.
Struggling is something that a lot of people are doing right now. We know all too well the number of people who are sick, the incredible and selfless medical personnel and first responders, whose loved ones who have died, those who have lost their jobs, and those who suddenly have children at home while trying to work from home at the same time. The list goes on. How do we respond as a people of God?
During these last two weeks of Lent, we will follow Jesus and watch him physically struggle during his final days of life on earth. But we will also listen to his compelling words, sacred actions and loving messages to us. May we follow his inspiring example of looking to God with trust and confidence in the midst of the struggles. Jesus’ words and actions are meant to give us hope.