Readings: Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9
I tell you, if you do not repent, you will perish as they did. The Gospels are clear. Even Jesus had a bad day once in a while. We don’t especially want to hear things like that, because we want Jesus to be our comfort in time of need and times of hurt. But we need to remember that Jesus was truly human in every way, not in physical appearance only. True God and true man. Jesus had feelings, intense feelings. The Gospels are very honest about Jesus’ humanness, his grief, his anger, his exasperation, as about his humor, his love, his joy, his great compassion and pity. Jesus’ emotions are an integral part of his humanness.
So we shouldn’t be surprised when the Gospels show us Jesus having a hard day–as in today’s Gospel. Surely, we all know what that’s like. Listen to what Jesus means by what he is telling us today: “When will you stop pointing your finger at other people, and will start looking at your own self?” Not those sinners there but we sinners. Not those Galileans but we Christians. If we achieve nothing else this Lent, may we begin to look within our own selves and try to learn some compassion for the folks around us.
There is another part of this Sunday’s scripture readings that I would focus on today, more than our Gospel. Our first reading comes from the Book of Exodus, which presents us with the encounter which Moses had with God in the Sinai desert. A burning bush which was not being consumed; pretty dramatic. For poor Moses it became completely overwhelming.
This encounter wasn’t something God was doing only for Moses. It was for the entire Hebrew nation held as slaves in Egypt that God appeared to Moses, and even for all of us, here and now, who in our hearts long for God on this, our earthly pilgrimage.
Poor Moses is really rattled, first by the vision itself, and then by the mission that God chooses for him to fulfill. “Please send someone else,” Moses begs God. But as we all have to learn, there is really no arguing with God. God will get his way, we all discover. So Moses is privileged to be chosen by God, even to becoming God’s special friend, as we learn later in the Book. But such a privilege will cost Moses dearly. Fortunately Moses learns about that part only little by little, as a relationship to God deepens and his mission becomes more demanding.
God knows how to bring him along gradually, much as he led the Hebrew people gradually through the desert to the promised land. This is about each one of us, not just people more than three-thousand years ago. God touches every one of our lives. Sometimes it’s done in a more dramatic way, as with Moses, but usually in much more ordinary ways. We all know that God will win in the end. And we are deeply glad of that, even if we sometimes wish it didn’t have to be us that he chose.
A religious vocation is like that. Marriage and family life, I’m told, are like that. We don’t know what we are getting into. But we hope that God will manage to achieve his purpose in us anyway. That is our quiet joy, that God will win, when all the ruckus settles down. As the Prophet Jeremiah famously lamented: You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped. But it is so very worth it in the end. St. John wrote this in his First Epistle so well: Beloved, we are already the children of God. What we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed. When it is revealed, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is.
Moses so wanted to see God; and so do we, in spite of everything.