Tuesday, July 18, 2017

THE CALL OF MOSES


Homily for July 19th, 2017: Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12.

Again today, as in our first reading yesterday, we encounter Moses. He has become a Nobody in a foreign land, reduced to tending sheep for a living. The Bible puts his age at eighty. His meaningful life, it would seem, is over. But not for God. God calculates differently. On a day which starts like every other, God breaks into the old man’s life and calls him to do what he had miserably failed to do half a lifetime before.

“The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and [Moses] looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.” (Ex. 3:2) Moses is in the desert, the abode of wild animals. Fire means danger: better keep clear. Old in years but still young in spirit, Moses does something unexpected. “And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’” (Ex. 3:3f)

          “Do not come near,” God says to Moses, “put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. … And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex. 3:5f). Those words come back to me often, when I approach the altar to obey Jesus’ command at the Last Supper to “Do this in my memory.” Never in Holy Scripture is the encounter with God routine or ordinary. Always there is awe, even fear. So it was then. So should it be today.

“I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt,” God tells Moses, “and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians …” How surprised Moses must have been at these words. But also how gratified. The words which follow, however, shock him to the core of his being. “I will send you so that you may bring forth my people … out of Egypt.”

Me? Moses asks in astonishment. “Who am I that I should go and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” To which God replies simply: “I will be with you.”

When God promises something, he always keeps his promise. We know the dramatic sequel: the delivery from certain death of an entire oppressed people, under the leadership of a man who – until God called him -- was washed up, finished, kaput as the Germans say. If God could still use a man like that, He can use each one of us if, like Moses, we remain open to the Lord’s call, seeking every day to do his will.