1. Exodus 34, 4-6 and 8-9
- This is God’s
own word about himself: Lord. I hear it repeated seven times. Let me
say it every time with understanding, with awe, with the intimacy of prayer.
- In fact, this entire
reading is an encounter in prayer between Moses and God. Moses went up, alone with only
the two stone tablets (the word of the Lord) in his hand. God came down
in the glory of the cloud. Let me dwell on this, that Moses is single-minded and prepared to meet the holy
- The mountaintop appears to be a halfway point between earth and heaven. But God has
chosen the place and the terms of the meeting. When we pray we face up to the truth about ourselves and
God. We do not insist, we do not demand. We only hold our tongue and listen.
I pause at times to show this, and I will also redouble my reverence in the liturgy where the same holy God is present.
- God cries
out and Moses answers, bowing down to the ground in worship. Listen to the reverence in
his words: If I find favor with you. He is not presumptuous. Pardon
our wickedness and our sins. In the presence of the holy God we see who we truly are.
- Climax: God
is known to us not through the relationships among the Trinity but through a profound relationship with us, through love for
us, through the creation and through the covenant with Israel. That is what scripture tells me over and
over. Listen to how God identifies himself: a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich
in kindness and fidelity. These are the words we must all remember.
- Message for
our assembly: Moses asks God to receive us as your own. We are all children of God, heirs
of the promise, no matter our origins. Do we truly want to be accompanied on our pilgrimage by the Lord,
a God who is so close to us, who knows our hypocrisy and pettiness and yet loves us?
- I will challenge myself: to read
as one who wants this to happen. I am not indifferent and so I will read the passage as if I truly care
how it comes out.
2. II Corinthians 13, 11-13
- I’ve heard
this before, at the start of every mass!
- It is the end of a long letter, a blessing but also an appeal to unity in this young church.
The reading is short. How can I stretch it out so the assembly can appreciate what I am saying?
By the sweep of my glance and my attention on each part of this trinitarian blessing, I can speak a simple catechism
grace of the Lord Jesus Christ – (I just used that word seven times to refer to the God of Israel!)
it is the salvation of our lives. That grace is what makes us beautiful and presentable on earth.
I can lighten my gaze and my voice as I speak.
- The love of God – yes, God is love and the love we
share that comes from God is the source of our unity. I can deepen my voice here.
- The fellowship
of the Holy Spirit – where our life finds its fullest meaning, the place where we join our hope with that of
others. I can broaden my glad smile from one side to the other. The Spirit makes room
for all of us in that fellowship.
- I also hear words of encouragement and reminders to be at love and peace.
And who is our God? Here we have an echo of the words of God to Moses: the apostle calls God a God
of love and peace. Are we ready to imitate this lifestyle? Am I ready to assert
it now, not as a platitude but as the reality of our church?
- Climax: Let us take note that the final blessing by the apostle is trinitarian.
- The message for our assembly:
We are called to be that fellowship. In my words it is partly a reality that we share right now, but mostly
a calling toward a life of holiness that has yet to be fulfilled.
- I will challenge myself: To say the blessing as if it answers my deepest
wish for those who hear my words today.
John 3, 16-18
- Our faith in God, the
Holy Trinity, is a relationship above all. More than any other evangelist, John has made this clear.
God gave his only Son. What I read today is no mere rudimentary
suggestion of the Trinity; it is part of that primal experience to which every development of doctrine must ring true.
Let me not think of myself as the lead-in to the main act, but the main act itself. Jesus teaches
us with his life and death who is our God, the God who reveals self to us even today.
- Here is my overriding theme in the first sentence, known
to every sports couch potato, every Bible-thumping Christian and to not a few in my hearing today. God
so loved the world. I hear this affirmation twice in a very short space, and I do not doubt what
I hear. Once more I hear the echo and I will repeat it for the assembly’s benefit. That
the world might be saved through him.
- The evangelist is in line here with the apostle, who
also said that God calls first and we respond to that call. We believe, and I repeat this second leitmotiv
four times: everyone who believes in him … believe in the name of the only Son of God.
- John leaves no room for
a middle ground. We’re talking about belief in someone, which means giving our lives and hopes to
that person. Or out of our freedom we don’t make the pledge. Only at that point
do we hear the words of judgment: because someone in response does not believe.
I do not speak these words threateningly, but sadly, recognizing too well that many will not throw in their lot with
Jesus. Even I myself have not made a full commitment. In either case, God is the giver.
God has made it all possible and will continue to love the world.
- Message for our assembly: Everyone who believes
in him means you and me, old and young, restorationists and innovators, all those listening today.
Again, I repeat the vision of one witnessing church that the apostles bequeathed us.
Word to Eucharist: Do we seriously believe that we enter even more deeply the mystery of
the Trinity each time we approach the table?