“I think most of us are settling for Bette Midler’s God.”
It was a terrific headline. Hardly what anyone expects a priest to say when starting his homily on a Bible passage. Fr. Chris Kanowitz, smiled at the cognitive dissonance apparent in the expressions of each of us seated in front of him at that Thursday’s daily Mass.
A newly ordained priest, he’d gotten the reaction he wanted: we woke up.
Although it’s been close to five years since Fr. Chris grabbed and held the attention of everyone of us, I’ve thought about that sermon again. This past Sunday’s reading was the same one as that Thursday morning in 2017.
Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro,
the priest of Midian.
Leading the flock across the desert, he came to Horeb,
the mountain of God.
There an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire
flaming out of a bush.
As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush,
though on fire, was not consumed.
So Moses decided,
“I must go over to look at this remarkable sight,
and see why the bush is not burned.”
When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely,
God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
He answered, “Here I am.”
God said, “Come no nearer!
Remove the sandals from your feet,
for the place where you stand is holy ground.
I am the God of your fathers, ” he continued,
“the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”
Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God…
When I go to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” God replied, “I am who am.” Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the children of Israel: I AM sent me to you.”
God spoke further to Moses, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob has sent me to you.
“This is my name forever; this is my title for all generations...
From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow capped mountains white
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight…
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance
Back in the nineties, working full-time and pursuing a doctorate more than consumed my life. But when Midler’s song played on the radio, I’d stop and listen. And I’d think how nice it would be if what she was singing were true. Maybe like some of you reading this piece.
Bishop Barron stomps on all notion of the uninterested deist God that Midler sang about.
“This text in Exodus is the most important text in the Bible, bar none.”
Why does he make that claim?
Because here is where God gives himself a name.
Because if we really ponder what is happening here, we glimpse the deeply personal, particular and intimate relationship God has with Moses.
With each one of us.
Listening to this brief, magnificent talk, Who Is God?, immerses us into awe, mystery and wonder at this trinune God who called you and me into being. He whom I met at a Benedictine Monastery many years ago.
Both closer to us than we are ourselves, yet Holy, Holy Holy…the Hebrew whispered word Bishop Barron explains that means, Other, Other, Other.
“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
and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land,
a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Moses said to God, “But when I go to the Israelites
and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’
if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?”
God replied, “I am who am.”
Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites:
I AM sent me to you.”
This is the God who emptied Himself of His divinity to become just like you and me. Experienced our humanity so that He could show us who we are meant to be.
He who heard the plea of the crucified thief on his right, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom,” and said, “This day you will be with me in paradise.”
And waits for us to turn to him.
Surrender our will to Him.
Of old, prayer was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger, even before it received its perfection from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer. No longer does prayer bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or close up the mouths of lions, or transport to the hungry food from the fields…Now, however, the prayer of the just turns aside the whole anger of God, keeps vigil for its enemies, pleads for persecutors. Is it any wonder that it can call down water from heaven when it could obtain fire from heaven as well? Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God. But Christ has willed that it should work no evil, and has given it all power over good…The Spiritual Offering of Prayer