Do You Believe the Scriptures?
Thursday March 29, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Lent
Reading (Exodus 32:7-14) Gospel (St. John 5:31-47)
In the Gospel reading today, the Lord condemns the people He is talking to because they do not believe. He tells them they do not believe in Him. He says, "Long before you do not believe in Me, you do not believe in Moses. You do not believe what he wrote. If you do not believe what Moses wrote, and he wrote about Me, how is it that you are going to believe what I say?" They knew that what Moses wrote was inspired by God, and yet, they really did not believe it.
We live in a very similar age. We live in a day and age where people are denying Scripture all the time. They will say, "Jesus didnít really walk on water. They thought He was walking on the water, but He was really walking along the shore." Or they will say, "You know there really wasnít the miracle of the loaves and fishes; that really didnít happen. Itís just that everybody had some bread in their pocket and the apostles didnít know it. Then everybody pulled it out at the same time and that was the miracle." They say all these nonsensical things, but even within ourselves we can look at this and say, "Did God really give the manna every day in the desert?" There were a million and a half people; six hundred thousand men, we are told, of military age. Then you go beyond that and realize with all the women, children, and older people, that would have been over a million and a half people. "Did He really give them water in the desert every day for forty years? Did He really feed a million and a half people with quail every day? Did those plagues in Egypt really happen? How do we know these things?" Then you can look at all the other things that took place. "Did Moses really lie flat on his face for forty days on top of the mountain? Did God really write on rock and put down the Ten Commandments? How can we believe these things? How can we believe that the Red Sea actually opened up, people walked right through it, and it closed on the Egyptians? Itís impossible on a human level. How can we believe such nonsensical ideas? They are all myths!"
The worst thing I have ever read about this (so far) was this tripe that somebody wrote suggesting that there was no such thing as the Exodus, but what happened was that the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt. They found some evidence that there were two incidents of slaves who escaped from the area of Pi Ramses, which is where the Egyptians had forced the Israelites to build the city. Since they found these two inscriptions about escaped slaves, who were Asiatics (which is what the Israelites were considered at that time), that escaped into the desert and they had to send out troops to find them, this guy wrote a whole thesis on the supposed fact that the Exodus never occurred, but that the people escaped one at a time out into the desert over a number of years. Then they made up this story about the Exodus because how else were they going to explain how they got out of Egypt. Itís just total trash. Itís unbelief.
When we look at ourselves, itís so easy to fall into that same pattern. Put yourself in Mosesí place today. Picture Moses on top of the mountain talking to God. Heís just led these people out through the Red Sea. Now these people have made a molten calf and they are worshipping it. We would say, "How could they do such a thing?" Remember, these people grew up in Egypt where they worshipped a calf. That was one of the primary gods of the Egyptians. It is what the people had known their whole life. Theyíve only heard about God, at this point, for a couple of months. So all of a sudden they fall into this and God says to Moses, "Let me wipe them out. Iíll make you a great nation." That would play on our pride pretty well. We would say, "What a great thing!" But Moses said, "No, no! Remember Your promise to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Israel." Moses believed in what God had promised; he didnít waver. This was a test that God was giving to Moses. Was Moses going to believe? Then Moses wrote these things down and the Jewish people would say, "Well, Abraham is our father, and Moses." Jesus said, "You donít even believe in them. You donít really believe what they wrote."
Think of what we are dealing with today. People donít believe Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Scripture people would say, "Oh, no, there are four writers of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). There are four different people at least, who wrote that. Moses didnít write it." Jesus says right in the Gospel that Moses wrote it. But, you know, who was Jesus? Do we really have to believe in this man? He says that John the Baptist testified on His behalf; His works testify on His behalf; but do we really believe that? Archbishop Fulton Sheen reminded us that there were 350 specific prophecies that needed to be fulfilled regarding the Messiah. Many of them had to do with the works that He would perform. The Jewish people knew that. The rabbis had all that specifically laid out. He said the odds of having that in one person were 1 over 84 followed by 126 zeros. Those are the odds of that happening in one person. It included some things like: He had to be born in Bethlehem, had to be the first-born, had to be crucified, no bones would be broken, and he would be pierced. All those different things that we know of, but it also dealt with some of the miracles. That is why He is saying, "My works testify on My behalf." There is nobody else who could say in all of human history that they fulfilled everything. God told us He was going to send His Son into the world; He told us what He was going to do; He told us what we could look at and look for.
Still, we do not believe. Still, we come up with all these things saying, "Well, Jesus wasnít really God. Jesus really isnít the Messiah. The New Testament is just some stories that the apostles made up to try and explain how they could start this new enterprise of the Church." It is garbage. It is total lack of faith. We have to believe. Jesus tells us His works testify on His behalf. His Father and the Holy Spirit testify on His behalf. We have the apostles, 2000 years of the Church, John the Baptist, the inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures; we have many witnesses testifying on His behalf. Do we believe? Not just in our heads. Not just to say, "Yeah, yeah. I guess I kind of believe that the Bible really is true." Do we believe in Jesus Christ? Do we believe that He is God and man? Do we believe that He is the Messiah? Do we really believe that He is risen from the dead? The apostles could not understand what the resurrection of the dead meant. Do we believe that? That He rose from the dead, that His body that was crucified on the Cross rose from the dead and ours will too? Do we really believe that? That is what it comes down to.
We look at it and Jesus is condemning these people for their lack of faith, itís not a whole lot different from us. We have had it handed to us on a silver platter. The Church has given it to us, it is in the Catechism, we can look it all up. We have saints for 2,000 years and still we struggle. We canít look at these people and scoff. All we can do is look at ourselves and try to understand the struggle they had, and try to believe. How much easier it should be for us, and we struggle in believing. We need to look at Jesus; we need to look at the Scriptures; we need to look at the Church; we need to look at every single teaching of the Church. We cannot deny one of them without the whole thing falling down. We need to ask ourselves truly in the very depths of our heart, at the very core of our being; not just a mental thing, but at the very root and core of who we are: "Do I believe in every single teaching of Jesus Christ, in the very Person of Jesus Christ, in the Church that He Himself founded, and in every single teaching of that Church? Do I really, truly, in the depths of my heart, believe?"
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.