The Israelites have forgotten that God has delivered them from slavery in Egypt and provided food and water for them in the desert. They are in mourning for Aaron, the brother of Moses, who recently died, and they are tired — tired of travelling and tired of eating the same food every day. They are feeling trapped in a seemingly endless journey. They have lost faith in Moses and lost faith in God.
Jesus tells the Pharisees that they “will die in [their] sin.” What is their sin? They lack faith and they refuse to believe that Jesus is speaking the message of the Father who sent Him. Jesus says that He always does His Father’s will — what is pleasing to Him. Perhaps the Pharisees think themselves too important to listen to Jesus; whatever the reason, they are trapped — imprisoned — by their obstinate refusal to accept Jesus, and they are doomed to die in their sin.
Am I trapped by a lack of faith, too? Am I obstinate like the Pharisees and refuse to listen to Jesus’ message and follow His example of letting God be in charge of my life — doing what is pleasing to Him? Do I place too much emphasis on controlling how my own knowledge, gifts, and talents should be used? Does my own self-importance keep me from trusting God to direct their use? Is this the root of my sin?
As today’s psalm reminds us, “The Lord looked down from His holy height…to hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.” Jesus will lead us to freedom from sin and to eternal life — if we let Him.
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess, You have given me. I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. –St. Ignatius of Loyola
Brother Frank Hagerty, S.S.E. ‘73, Spiritual Director and Retreat Director, Putney, VT
First Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 102:2-3, 16-21
Gospel: John 8:21-30
Daily Scripture readings can be found online at the USCCB website