3rd Sunday of Lent 2013
Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.
Who is the one true God of heaven and earth? This is a most important question for man to ask and have answered. But only God can answer this question for man can know by his natural reason very little about God, that God exists, that God is one, that God is absolute goodness, etc. Man needs to know who God is because God is not only man’s origin, but more importantly God is man’s final end. The fact that God created man and destined man for supernatural happiness in himself obviously is not without importance as to how we should live in this world.
The doctrine of man’s creation is of supreme importance in our own day, since it teaches us that God designed our nature, that our nature is a given that we are not free to change by the power of modern science. All too many people today think it’s perfectly natural for science to alter human nature. And so we have medical procedures for changing a person’s sexual nature, for turning one sex into another, at least superficially by altering the physiology underlies sexual identity. And now we have scientists who want to clone human beings or change the genetic composition of human beings. In other words, we now have scientists who want to play God.
But it’s dangerous to play God, since man’s intellect is so lacking when it comes to knowledge of the whole, let alone of the part. The truth is that we simply don’t know what the ultimate consequences will be for this human experimentation as far as the human physical nature is concerned. But we do know that when man plays God, he destroys that which makes man human in the full sense, because he destroys the soul. Nothing destroys the soul of man more than man playing God, and that’s why the temptation by Satan at the beginning was precisely that “you shall become like God.” When man thinks he is the Supreme Being, then he fails to honor and respect the true Supreme Being, and then there are no limits possible as to what man can do with his deeply distorted conscience.
So God says to Moses, in answer to his question about who God is who is sending him to the Israelites, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” To make “I am” the identifying name of God is to identify God’s nature. God is pure being, and God is the origin of all that is outside of himself. No other creature can say what God says, that is nature is identified as pure being. That would be the height of absurdity. So God first identifies himself in terms of his nature, which even man’s reason can discover what its operating correctly, as the pagan philosophers of Greece, like Plato and Aristotle, prove to us. But here God reveals the truth to Moses so that Moses will understand that the one who is sending him is the one who created him and everything else that exists, for he is pure being and the source of all being, and that means that he has infinite power to carry out his will through Moses and the chosen people.
But then God adds something to the self identification. We read, “God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. If in the first name God identifies himself as pure being, and the source of all being, the omnipotent God, he goes further and adds that he is also the God of the Covenant, the God of “your fathers,” the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Thus God reveals both his omnipotent nature and his personal relationship with Israel, and by extension, with all mankind. God, therefore, is not to be confused with the impersonal powers that men often identify with God, for the omnipotent God is simultaneously the personal God who has covenanted with Israel, the God of their fathers.
How shocking this truth is to the human mind unaided by faith. How can the God who is pure being, the God who is the only potential source of all being, also be the God who covenants with men, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with a very small and inconspicuous nation on the face of this planet. The true God’s identity is not self-evident to the human mind. God is not just a power that controls the universe, but a personal God who enters into a covenant of love. In short God loves man and wills to redeem Him so that man can enjoy the destiny for which he was created in the first place, the enjoyment of God.
But then Israel itself will be shocked when God further identifies himself through Jesus Christ. God is not simply personal, God is not simply the one who acts as a father to Israel, but God is Father in a much deeper sense. God eternally begets a Son and sends that Son into the world, into the vineyard, in order to save Israel, and through Israel all mankind. Indeed, the omnipotence and love of God makes it possible for this Son to become flesh, to truly assume our human nature and, as man, be the true heir of all that belongs to the Father. Of course, as Jesus warns, a horror beyond words is about to occur. Those who are in charge of the vineyard up to his time will reject him and put him to death.
Finally, God once again manifests his omnipotence and his love by making this crime the source of salvation that comes through his Son. This is the true God who reveals himself to the world in this final act of divine generosity. God is the “I am,” but even more wonderfully the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and more wonderful yet the God and Father of Jesus Christ, and finally and most wonderful the God who makes us his children who call him rightly “our Father.” And now we can also rightfully endow the final line of the first reading today from Exodus with this full revealed truth of who God is, “This is my name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations.” He is the true God and Father who makes us sons in the Son, and we must learn to live as his adopted children. His revelation of who He is also reveals to us who we are, and how we are to live, and what it ultimately means to be, period.