Thursday, 3 April 2014

Lent Week 4 Thursday -- 3 April 2014

Readings: Exodus 32:7-14; Psalm 105; John 5:31-47

We have heard the parable of the Prodigal Son twice recently. The elder brother disowns his younger brother by referring to him, in speaking to his father, as 'your son'. The father reminds him that they are related, 'your brother'.

We find the same thing in today's first reading. God speaks to Moses and refers to the people now as 'your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt'. 'Hold on a minute', Moses says (or words to that effect), 'what we are talking about here are your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt'. Moses calls God back to himself: remember that you are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; remember that you are the God who made the promises to them; remember that you swore by your own name, by your own self. So why now should the Egyptians or any other foreigners pour scorn not only on this people but on the God who led them out of Egypt and now finds himself tempted to disown them?

Moses' pleading works and God relented of the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people. We came across the same theme, of God's 'conversion', in the Book of Jonah. The call to return that goes out at the beginning of Lent can therefore be understood this way: return to me as your God and I will return to you as my people.

The love involved in a covenant is pledged and the relationship thereby established cannot be undone. This is why the relationship between God and the people is like a marriage. There may be rough times with stresses and strains, there may be infidelity and desertion, but the reality established in the covenant cannot be undone. We can fail to live according to it. God may be tempted to bring it to an end as we see in this first reading but because God is faithful, in the first place to His own nature, this relationship will never cease to be.

'The one who will accuse you is Moses', Jesus says in the gospel reading. Moses is the one who knows all about the stresses and strains in the relationship between the people and God. In referring to Moses, Jesus is referring not just to the historical figure, the prophet who led the people out of Egypt, he is referring also to the text of Scripture, to the Torah, the book of the covenant and the law. And Jesus is presented to us - and this is a strong theme throughout the New Testament - as a new Moses.

We can have great hope, therefore, in the face of judgement, because Moses is the mediator, the one who intercedes with God for the people. All the more so does the new Moses, Jesus, intercede with his heavenly Father for the people. For if the law - the first incarnation of the wisdom of God - was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ - the definitive incarnation of the wisdom of God.

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