Who Is the God Who Is? Reply

Second Sunday of Lent

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During Lent the Church invites us to reorient our lives. As a compass needs a true North in order to point us in the right direction, we too need an immutable point of reference to ensure that our lives are moving down the right path. The purpose of the Lenten season is to redirect our hearts and minds to God.

But isn’t it true that, as humans, we still have a hard time shifting the focus off ourselves, even during Lent? Is it not sometimes more about our holiness than it is about the God who makes us holy? This Sunday’s readings remind us where our focus needs to be by putting the spotlight where it should be, on God.

While there are numerous perspectives one could take with regard to any given passage in the Bible, our limited human minds can only focus their attention on one thing at a time. What usually grabs our curiosity in the first reading from Genesis is the character of Abram – why him, of all people? While that is a worthwhile consideration, try putting it aside for now, and place yourself in Abram’s shoes. Hear the words of the Lord, as if they are spoken directly to you.

The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.
I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”
Abram went as the LORD directed him. (Genesis 12:1-4)

The beauty of this passage is that of the one who speaks – God.

Cloaked in mystery, everything but God’s solitary voice is left to the imagination. This voice comes out of the blue. No visuals, no indication as to whether the voice is audible or just an internal call. How does Abram even know the voice is from God? Perhaps, God’s words speak for themselves. It can only be God who says, “I am with you, I am here for you, and I want to be your God. Follow me.”

Another occasion worth considering, when God revels himself out of the blue, is when God calls Moses in Exodus 3. This time the author provides greater detail, giving us more insight into who God is.

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Moses and the Burning Bush at Sinai

While Moses is minding his own business, tending his flocks, the “Angel of the Lord” appears to him as “fire flaming out of a bush.” A voice tells Moses to take off his shoes, for he is standing on holy ground. Next, God reveals himself as God: “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Thus, Moses, who knew of many gods in Egypt knows that not just any god is speaking to him.

When God commissions Moses, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt,” Moses rightly asks, “Who am I?” God responds by telling Moses all he needs to hear: “I will be with you.” In other words, it really isn’t about who Moses is, it’s about who God is. When Moses persists, “Who am I to say sent me?” God responds: “YHWH.” “I am who I am.”

How are we supposed to comprehend who the God-Who-Is is?

If we were to put ourselves in Moses’ shoes – follow me on this one – we wouldn’t be wearing shoes. If we found ourselves, like Moses, in the presence of the Most High, would we, like Moses, hide our faces? I think so, but not because of our limited intellects. The God who chooses to reveal himself to us knows the one to whom he chooses to reveal himself. It wouldn’t make sense for God to waste his revelation on beings who didn’t have the capacity to get it. The problem isn’t our limited minds, but our sinfulness that separates us from God. Yet God clearly wants to be in a relationship with us. Since the fall, the story of salvation has been all about his desire to restore that relationship, which requires his freeing us from our attachment sin. On our own we are not capable of being holy. Only God, who is holy, can make us holy.

In the second reading for this Sunday, St. Paul – who, by the way, experienced being knocked off his horse and blinded by God – makes this point:

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began… (2 Timothy 1:9).

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Conversion of St. Paul, Caravaggio

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus Christ invites us to share with Peter, James, and John in the same experience he gave to Abram, Moses, and Paul. From the cloud, the voice of God – the very same God who spoke to Abraham and to Moses – reveals to us who God is:

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

This Sunday’s liturgy simply invites us to exercise our faith in the God who reveals himself as the God Who Is. To conclude, in the words of St. Paul:

For us there is
one God, the Father,
from whom all things are and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things are and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6)

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