Today we move on

Tom Bartolomeo
Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 18, 2018
Reproduced with Permission

Fifth Sunday of Lent - "In times past, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our fathers through the prophets; in this, the final age, he has spoken to us through his Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he first created the universe", (Hebrew 1:1).

We have completed the Office of Readings from Ash Wednesday to today and the covenant God made with the people of Israel recorded in the Books of the Old Testament, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, all inspired by God in the writings of Moses. Today we move into the Scriptural Readings of the New Testament and Covenant beginning with the Book of Hebrews whose perspective rests in Jesus Christ.

On one level today's passage from the Book of Hebrews would be an astonishing revelation to the Israelites of the Old Covenant wending their way to the promised land. Yes, the prophets, in hindsight, spoke of a Messiah who would free them but they did not comprehend that he would free them from the "wages of sin" which the Apostle Paul spoke of and bring them to the "spirit and life" of Jesus Christ who brought into the world God's "new and eternal Covenant", forever.

Were we among the Jews back then wandering in a desert - would we have reacted differently not knowing and being blessed by Jesus Christ? I wonder. These are great mysteries we should reflect on which were laid out for us to understand n First Readings of the Hours of the Office from Ash Wednesday through yesterday, Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent:

If any of this is not clear read again the daily First Readings between the Thursday after Ash Wednesday through the First Reading on Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent. Altogether thirty-one days of select Readings from the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers which tell the story outlined above -- the Israelites wandering in the desert, the most repeated story in the Books of the Old and the New Testament.

The place and time may have changed but the story of the Jews stumbling on their way to God's haven should shock no one unless we have become so accustomed to the world and its heathen ways that we can not understand Jesus' warnings, "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?", Luke 12:49ff. ( Read further this passage from Luke's Gospel and weigh its implications within our families. I prefer the reader decide for himself and not simply accept my understanding of these readings and the conclusions I have drawn. )

We do, however, have God's motives which he revealed in Sacred Scripture and his methods of chastisement and redemption foreshadowed in the Book of Exodus which the Apostle Peter once explained, "The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay", but he is patient with you, not wishing any should perish but that all should come to repentance," 2 Peter 3:9. After God relented on destroying the rebellious Israelites we read in the First Reading for today, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, that God instructed Moses to take his people to what they would perceive as a return route back to Egypt, telling him, "I pardon them as you have asked.

Yet by my life and the Lord's glory that fills the whole earth . . . [those] who have put me to the test ten times already and have failed to heed my voice, not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their fathers. None of these who have spurned me shall see it." God then instructed Moses to "turn away [from Canaan for the time being] and set out in the desert on the Red Sea road", Numbers 14:25. "Those who have put [God] to the test" believed that Moses was taking them back to the Red Sea and cross it again, to return to Egypt. But it was a divine ruse. God gave them thirty-nine more years wandering in the desert to repent. Most of them, especially the older generations, would die natural deaths in the desert and their children and children's children who were born in the desert who were not affected by the pagan society of Egypt would be only a remnant of those who originally left Egypt but who were more suited to the Covenant God gave them as his chosen people. I expect God's Providence in our time may work the same way with the same outcome.