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The Bible In A Year: Day 22

Readings:
Exodus 3-4
Psalm 19
Mathew 19

We pick the story back up with Moses out in the wilderness and tending his livestock. He comes upon a bush that is burning, but the fire doesn’t consume the bush, the fire seems to just exist there and not actually be burning any fuel, so he goes to investigate.

When he draws near to the bush, he is addressed by God and told that He has heard the cry of the people and will send Moses back to Egypt to deliver them. When Moses asks what the name of this God of his ancestors is, we get a a brief answer that is as deep as the oceans. The catechism spells this out much better than I ever could in paragraphs 203-214 so I’ll quote a couple of them here.

203 God revealed himself to his people Israel by making his name known to them. A name expresses a person’s essence and identity and the meaning of this person’s life. God has a name; he is not an anonymous force. To disclose one’s name is to make oneself known to others; in a way it is to hand oneself over by becoming accessible, capable of being known more intimately and addressed personally. 206 In revealing his mysterious name, YHWH (“I AM HE WHO IS”, “I AM WHO AM” or “I AM WHO I AM”), God says who he is and by what name he is to be called. This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is – infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the “hidden God”, his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men. 207 By revealing his name God at the same time reveals his faithfulness which is from everlasting to everlasting, valid for the past (“I am the God of your father”), as for the future (“I will be with you”). God, who reveals his name as “I AM”, reveals himself as the God who is always there, present to his people in order to save them

CCC 203, 206, 207

God answers Moses by saying “I AM WHO I AM.” God is infinite being, who exists outside of time, space and matter, who transcends time and is the only necessary being in a universe of contingent beings. God tells Moses that He “is”, and this name of God is claimed by Jesus in His 7 “IAm” statements recorded in the Gospel of John.

God names himself “is” when he speaks to Moses on the mountain, for he is a limitless ocean of being who, neither starting nor stopping, transcends every notion of time and nature.

Saint Gregory Nazianzen

This God who promises to be with Moses, like He promised to be with his ancestors, calls him to return to Egypt and say to the pharaoh that the people of Israel want to go into the desert to offer sacrifices to God. The entire story of exodus begins with this call for religious liberty, because the people had been there for 400 years and had been infected by Egyptian paganism, and now they had to rededicate themselves to the One True God.

When Moses starts trying to find a way out of this calling he says he is slow of speech, and God has an accommodation for this. He offers to have Moses’ brother Aaron be his spokesperson. Moses tries again to shirk this call to the vocation of prophet, but God insists, and so Moses heads back to Egypt to confront pharaoh.

Psalm

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Psalms 19:1

I usually don’t add much comment on the psalm of the day, because they speak for themselves and don’t usually require much backstory to understand them. But the first verse here speaks so loudly to me. Even in my darkest days and furthest from God, I never fell into atheism or agnosticism (thank God) because I was always fascinated by the night sky and the orderliness of the galaxies. Id watch documentaries of Fr Lematrie and his Big Bang Theory and always be reminded of this psalm. The night sky testifies to God’s existence like a cosmic version of the teleological argument for the existence of God, like William Paley’s famous example of a watch and watchmaker, but in the sky.

Mathew

Jesus goes to the area beyond the Jordan where John the Baptist was baptizing and where Moses delivered the discourses recorded in Deuteronomy. Both these facts are important due to what takes place.

Remember that John the Baptist was decapitated by Herod for speaking out against an unlawful marriage, and so that may have been the Pharisees motive here in asking questions to trap Jesus. When they ask about the possibility of divorce, Jesus responds with a short teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. They then bring up the fact that Moses allowed for divorce in Deuteronomy, and He responds with the fact that Moses allowed divorce but that was an imperfect compromise.

He then restates the law, thus showing His authority over and above Moses, by saying divorce and remarriage is impermissible. The disciples are incredulous about this turn of events and comment that it would be best to never marry. Jesus says they are correct, but that not many could bear this.

Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.

CCC 1619

The chapter finishes with a dialogue with a rich young man. He asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies to keep the commandments, and the man asks which ones. The Jews of that day followed hundreds of commandments in three different categories; the juridical law, the ceremonial law, the moral law. So he was asking for clarification on what was eternally most important.

Jesus responds by listing off the Ten Commandments, showing the young man and us too, that the moral law never passes away. What is intrinsically evil and against natural law remains out of bounds even in the New Covenant. The man says that he’s done all these, so Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor.

This doesn’t mean that everyone is called to vows of poverty like a monk, but that Jesus saw the attachment this man had to wealth and was telling him that to follow Jesus is to place Him above all. This detachment from material goods becomes more difficult if a person has great wealth, and Jesus gives an impossible comparison between a rich person entering heaven as a camel passing thru a needle. This is not possible without the help of God.

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