Since I am not preaching this Sunday, rather than offer a “homily” here today, I would like to offer brief thoughts on the meaning behind some of the verses in the readings today (Third Sunday of Lent Year C) , how they relate to other passages in the Bible, and who God is to us.
From the first reading
“Moses was tending the flock…Leading the flock“
Having fled from Egypt, Moses became a shepherd. The flock he cared for was a flock of sheep. He cares for them and they follow him, trusting him to lead them to fertile ground with food to eat and water to drink. This is his job. God takes what Moses did for a job and turns it into a vocation, a calling from God. Moses’ future did not lay in shepherding sheep. God called Moses to become a shepherd of people. God called Moses to lead his people from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. (This parallels how Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen whom God would call to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17).
“He came to Horeb, the mountain of God“
Horeb is traditionally understood to be the same mountain as Mount Sinai where Moses would lead the people after they crossed the Red Sea. Mount Sinai is the place where God established a covenant that included the Ten Commandments with his people.
“Though on fire, was not consumed…and see why the bush is not burned“
Moses saw the “fire flaming out of a bush.” This might seem insignificant except that the bush was not being consumed by the fire. This is no ordinary fire. It is God becoming present to Moses. One can think here of God coming down to light on fire the sacrifice of Elijah in his battle with the false prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 or the fire of the Holy Spirit coming down on the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-5). We do not how the bush was not burned. It remains a “mystery” except to know that it was God.
“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob“
Why does God identify himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Moses is in a foreign land. In the polytheistic culture of the time, gods were seen as being god only in a limited area. If one moved, one would change the god(s) they worshipped. When a new king came, the people would change to worship whatever god(s) the new king dictated. This is not so with the one true God. The God that Moses sees in the burning bush is the same God that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped wherever they lived. Over 400 years had passed since the death of Jacob. However, the Israelites still worshipped the same God. We worship the same God today.
“I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry”
Our God is not one who creates and then walks away. Our God is not one who ignores his people. Even today, just as God witnessed the affliction of the Israelites in Egypt, God is with us in our affliction. God even carries us in the most difficult moments. When we cry out in need, God is listening. We trust him to answer in accord with his will.
“And lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Where is the land that God has prepared for us? Jesus prepares a place in his Father’s house for all who believe in him as “the way and the truth and the life” (see John 14:1-6). God has a place for you in Heaven.
“What is his name?“
When Moses said the people will ask the name of the god who sent him to them, it is not just a matter of knowing his name to know what to call him. To know the name of a person is to know who they are. To know God’s name is to be in relationship with him. As Christians, when we hear “God” spoken, we think of our God who loves us so much to send his Son Jesus to die for us on the Cross (see John 15:13).
From the second reading
“And all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses.“
When God parted the waters of the Red Sea, the Israelites crossed from slavery to freedom. They began a new life. We begin a new life when we are baptized. We move from slavery to sin to freedom with Christ. We begin a journey to eternal life.
“All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink“
God gave the Israelites the manna as bread from Heaven (see Exodus 16:4). Jesus is the true bread from Heaven (see John 6:31-32).
“Do not grumble as some of them did…they have been written down as a warning to us“
We are not to grumble as the Israelites did at times in the desert. The stories of their grumbling were written down to warn us to not grumble and be punished (for example see Numbers 21:4-9). However, remember, God hears our cry. He wants us to pray to him for our needs. We pray with trust.
From the gospel reading
“But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!“
Jesus says this today not once but twice. The reality is we do sin at times. What are we to do when we have sinned. Repent! Do you then later sin again? Then, repent! God does not want us to perish! If God wanted us to perish He would not have sent Jesus to die for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
“When he came in search of fruit on it but found none“
God wants us to bear good fruit from the graces that He has given us. When we do not bear fruit, God does not rush to cut us down. God gives us another chance, hoping that we “bear fruit in the future.“
God has done much for his people. God does much for us because He loves us.