Third Sunday of Lent

Lectionary: 30

I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians. 

Today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus describes that cardinal moment in Salvation History when God entered time to save us from sin, futility and death. He gave Moses a new name by which his people may address him. 

In our alphabetic language we translate the word as YHWH, and refer to it as the tetragrammaton. We do not know how to pronounce the Hebrew word and should not attempt it out of reverence for the Jews who bequeathed this treasure to us. Our Bibles usually translate it as "Lord." 

But we know something of its meaning: "I am who am" or "I will be with you." 

I call this a cardinal moment in Salvation History because until now, the Hebrew slaves had no name for their god except El Shaddai: 
Then God spoke to Moses, and said to him: I am the LORDAs God the Almighty (El Shaddai) I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but by my name, LORD, I did not make myself known to them.
I met a fellow who told me he doesn’t pray because he is sure God has no time for him. He was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school but the God he was taught was distant, aloof and preoccupied. This is a fellow who attends Mass weekly and takes part in parish activities. But he has never learned the Name by which he might call on God. Or, more accurately, he does not understand that he has been given that extraordinary privilege by his Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. 

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Benedict XVI, wrote that the Greeks had discovered by their philosophical sciences there should be a supreme being but they had no name for that god until Christianity arrived with its Jewish traditions. 
We model our behavior -- and ourselves -- after the gods we worship. But if we neither know God's name nor call upon our Saving God by that name we can only imagine ourselves as cold, distant lovers (i.e. parents who provide food, shelter, clothing, toys, money but no affection).

Saint Paul tells us today, 
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud.... 
We do not have to live under the cloud of ignorance about the concerned, affectionate God who has come down to save us. We do not have to imitate a cold, distant, aloof god who has better things to do in his vast universe than pay attention to our petty affairs. 

Lent is the season, the moment of opportunity, when we shake off our fears of El Shaddai and approach the Lord Jesus with the confidence of injured children in sore need of attention. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.