Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MOSES GIVES THE LAW


March 22nd, 2017: Deut. 4:1, 5-9.

          God’s chosen people, the Jews, were slaves in Egypt for more than four centuries, over double the life of slavery in our country. Oppressed people follow the law of the jungle, inflicting on one another the cruelty and oppression inflicted on them by their oppressors. 

So the ragtag group of people who crossed the Red Sea with Moses had grown accustomed for centuries to a life of lawlessness. The Ten Commandments, given by God to Moses, were designed to bring order out of chaos, to establish justice and peace among a people who had long since forgotten the very meaning of those words. The Commandments were not then, nor are they now, fences to hem people in. They were and are ten signposts pointing the way to human flourishing, freedom, and peace.   

          That is why Moses tells the people in our first reading to observe God’s Commandments “that you may live.” Doing that, Moses says, “you will give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence” to other nations. But Moses tells them that they must do more. “Take care … not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.” What things is Moses referring to? He is speaking about the whole marvelous, indeed miraculous, story of his people’s deliverance from their more than four centuries of slavery.

          Why is this remembering so important? Why does Holy Scripture so often record the story of God’s mighty deeds in the past? Because God never changes. The record of God’s miraculous care for his people in the past assures us of his care today, and its continuance into the future. As we read in the letter to the Hebrews: “Jesus Christ is the same: yesterday, today, yes and forever” (13:8).

          The Church’s central act of worship, the Mass, is a recalling of what God’s Son, Jesus, has done for us at the Last Supper, on Calvary, and at his Resurrection. But this is not merely a mental recalling. Because the Mass is a sacrament, it makes present, spiritually but truly, that which it commemorates. We are there with the apostles in the Upper Room. We are there with the Beloved Disciple, Mary, and other women on Calvary; and we are with them also, astonished, at the empty tomb, with but one exception. We cannot see him with our physical eyes; but we do see him with the eyes of faith. And seeing, we adore.