HOMILY WEEK 15 03 – Year I
All is Given to the Simple
(Ex 3:1-6, 9-12; Ps 103; Mt 11:25-27)
What do the burning bush of Moses and a retreat have in common?
May I suggest that both involve encountering God through fearless, humble faith?
A retreat centre can be our mountain and our holy ground. A retreat itself is our burning bush. Hopefully, the humble, faith-filled prayer of retreatants allows them to approach God, like Moses, with great reverence and without fear.
Humble faith is the key. In the Gospel, Jesus thanks God for revealing God’s self to the humble and the simple, for that is God’s gracious will. There is a certain resignation here. Jesus has not reached the wise and prudent, for only a few disciples drawn from the peasant and working class have grasped his message, but such is the work of the Father. The message of Jesus is not grasped by wisdom and understanding, but by revelation. Only the simple have accepted the insight the Father grants to those who wish it.
There is a sense here that Jewish wisdom and learning (knowledge of the Law) was a genuine obstacle to the understanding of the message of Jesus. The more one knew about the Law, the more difficult it was to see that the messianic revelation would supersede the Law.
Historically, the religious system of the Jews had become so proud, self-absorbed and corrupt that before the exile, the shekinah or glory of God that filled the first temple when it was dedicated, lifted up and left the temple. Interestingly, when the second temple was dedicated, the glory of God did not return. That absence of the glory of God greatly bothered the religious leaders, and according to Richard Rohr, led to the emergence of the Pharisees as a religious force within Judaism. They believed that if they kept the law perfectly, then the glory of God would return to the temple.
That reasoning and religious belief that borders on Pelagianism, earning God’s love, flies in the face of Jesus’ comment today: “All has been given.” This is a direct contradiction of the Jewish claim to have the complete revelation of God in the Law and the Prophets. Jesus has a unique relation with the Father that the Law and the Prophets do not, and it is given only to the meek and humble who know they need God, and also realize they cannot earn God’s love nor do they deserve it – they can only receive it as a free gift.
When our sabbatical group in 2013 went to Mt. Sinai, we stayed at St. Catherine’s monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and climbed the mountain to view the sunrise. That was an incredible experience – to be where Moses may have received the Ten Commandments and worshipped God on a mountain. It was the humble faith of Moses, symbolized by taking off his sandals, that allowed him to hear God speak to him, to experience God calling him and choosing him to be God’s instrument in setting God’s people free. May our humble faith today allow us to experience God in a similar way.
There are people in our lives who are still in Egypt, caught in a spiritual cage of sin, painful emotions, negative attitudes – trying to survive by flying out of the top that leads to addiction. There is a small door at the bottom of that cage and it is humble faith. Our task is to be set free ourselves, and then like Moses, help free others.
The Eucharist is itself a burning bush experience, a theophany in which God speaks to us, calls us to come closer, gives God’s self to us through Word and Sacrament, and then mandates us to go out to the world – to help set others free to experience God through their own burning bush.