The reading from Exodus today begins with a striking line: “Although Moses and Aaron performed various wonders . . . the Lord made Pharaoh obstinate.” Pharaoh is unmoved. He will not change course, he will not acknowledge the work God is doing, and he will not let God’s people go.
The Pharisees in today’s Gospel also seem obstinate. As they interpret it, the law forbids the picking of grain on the Sabbath. Even in the face of the wondrous presence of God himself, the Pharisees are unmoved. They do not recognize the one whom they chastise.
In contrast, the enslaved children of Israel and the disciples of Jesus react differently. The wonders that Moses and Aaron have performed capture the attention of the Israelites. They move right away to respond to the command to prepare the Passover feast. Jesus’ disciples have seen in him something beautiful and captivating – enough so that they follow him even when they are hungry – and carefully listen to his words.
In our lives, too, God constantly offers us reasons to be moved by wonder: the beauty of creation, the simple gift of each day, the gift of God’s own body and blood at the Eucharistic table. Do we let these gifts of God’s presence strike us? Do they move us to worship, to wonder, to give thanks like the Israelites, or have we also been made obstinate?
The good news is that even when we are not moved, God is with us. Pharaoh was obstinate, so God moved to set his people free. The Pharisees were fixated on the law, so God sent his Son to teach and to save them. Our God is a God of mercy, who loves us even when we reject him. Let us be moved to love him in return.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator