Exodus 3:1 – 8a, 13 – 15
We are in the middle of Lent, our annual time of retreat. We are called, once again, to take a look at how our life reflects what we believe in God. And, as we will see in this Sunday’s readings, as we come to know God, we are called to action. We also bow down in humility and gratitude before a God who is generous beyond our understanding, always ready to forgive as he continues to call us back to him.
Let’s look at Sunday’s first reading. Moses hears God speak from a blazing bush. He takes off his sandals for he recognizes that he is on sacred ground. God reveals himself to Moses and then calls him to action. Let’s begin with the introduction to the narrative in 2:23–25, which sets the stage for Sunday’s reading.
1 (Meanwhile) Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock beyond the wilderness, he came to the mountain of God, Horeb.
Horeb: Look at your footnote here. “Traditionally, “Horeb” is taken to be an alternate name in E source material and Deuteronomy (e.g., Dt 1:2) for what in J and P is known as Mount Sinai, the goal of the Israelites’ journey after leaving Egypt and the site of the covenant God makes with Israel. However, it is not clear that originally the two names reflect the same mountain, nor even that “Horeb” refers originally to a mountain and not simply the dry, ruined region (from Hebrew horeb, “dryness, devastation”) around the mountain. Additionally, the position of “Horeb” at the end of the verse may indicate that the identification of the “mountain of God” with Horeb (= Sinai?) represents a later stage in the evolution of the tradition about God’s meeting with Moses. The phrase “mountain of God” simply anticipates the divine apparitions which would take place there, both on this occasion and after the Israelites’ departure from Egypt; alternatively, it means that the place was already sacred or a place of pilgrimage in pre-Israelite times. In any case, the narrative offers no indications of its exact location.” And, if you look at the map of the Exodus (map 3), you will see that Midian is quite a distance from any of the places where modern scholarship places Sinai. So, it is a mountain, a place where the ancients thought the gods dwelt, or a dry, ruined region around a mountain.
2 There the angel of the LORD
The angel of the LORD: again, let’s look at the footnotes: “The Hebrew mal’ak or “messenger” is regularly translated angelos by the Septuagint, from which the English word “angel” is derived, but the Hebrew term lacks connotations now popularly associated with “angel” (such as wings). Although angels frequently assume human form (cf. Gn 18–19), the term is also used to indicate the visual form under which God occasionally appeared and spoke to people, referred to indifferently in some Old Testament texts either as God’s “angel,” mal’ak, or as God. Cf. Gn 16:7, 13; Ex 14:19, 24–25; Nm 22:22–35; Jgs 6:11–18.” As we see, throughout the Old Testament, God is seen to appear in human form.
appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed.
3 So Moses decided, “I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight. Why does the bush not burn up?”
4 When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look, God called out to him from the bush: Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.”
5 God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.
Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground: This isn’t the only time God requires the removal of sandals; let’s look at Joshua 5:13 – 15. This may have been a common practice among the people of the Middle East. Even today, whenever you enter a mosque, you are required to leave your shoes outside.
6 I am the God of your father, he continued, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
he was afraid to look at God: you will recall that it was thought at that time that you would die if you beheld God. That is so different from our thinking today when we are actually encouraged to search for God. Remember, the word “reconciliation” speaks of us seeing God “eye to eye.”
7 But the LORD said: I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering.
8 Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them up from that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.
9 Now indeed the outcry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them.
10 Now, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 God answered: I will be with you; and this will be your sign that I have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will serve God at this mountain.
13 “But,” said Moses to God, “if I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what do I tell them?”
14 God replied to Moses: I am who I am. Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.
I AM: Although in the J source of the Pentateuch people have known and invoked God’s personal name in worship since the time of Seth (Gn 4:26; 12:8), for the E and P sources, God first makes this name publicly available here through Moses.
15 God spoke further to Moses: This is what you will say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.
This is my name forever; this is my title for all generations.
Luke 13:1 – 9
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear an encounter between Jesus and the people in the Jerusalem area that is unique to Luke’s gospel.
1 At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices: as you see in the footnote, there is no extra-biblical confirmation of such an event, but it would be in keeping the Pilate’s character. It is one of the few places, outside of the passion narratives, where Pilate is mentioned and it is very telling. Many see Pontius Pilate as a week and vacillating governor who used devious ways to accomplish his goals.
2 He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
3 By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!
4 Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
tower at Siloam fell on them: again, if you check your footnotes, you will read that nothing is known about this accident outside of this gospel account and another mention of it in elsewhere in the New Testament.
5 By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
6 And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
a fig tree: fig trees were highly prized for their fruit, which is luscious and juicy when ripe and provides continued sustenance well after the harvest season when they are dried.
7 he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. [So] cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’
three years: unlike olive trees, that usually don’t begin to bear fruit for seven years, fig trees begin to bear fruit within two years and usually provide an abundant harvest twice a year.
8 He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
9 it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
In both of these readings, we are taught that God is with us and that he cares for us but we, in turn, are called to action. Using the image of a bush or tree, he speaks of the life he offers (in the burning bush) and the fruit he calls us to bear (in the fig tree). In both passages, we also see God’s willingness to give us another chance. After all, he called Moses, who had killed someone, and the gardener is willing not only to give the tree another year but to expend even more energy – cultivating and fertilizing it – to encourage it to bear fruit. But, in the end, he calls us to bear fruit. That’s an important message for us as we continue our Lenten journey.
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 1- 12