As our Lenten journey continues, we see in the reading from Exodus how the once-proud Moses had been humbled by his experience in Egypt, when his spontaneous effort to “save” a fellow Hebrew ended badly and he had to flee Egypt to the land of Midian. There he would begin a new life, very different from his life as an Egyptian prince. The young Moses may have harbored a desire to help the Israelites, but after that disaster, he seems to have settled into an unremarkable life as a shepherd, marrying and having a child. God however still had plans for Moses, and they did not include living a “hidden” life. It would appear that his earlier attempt to take on the role of savior in his own way had not been led by a movement of God’s Spirit. That effort had failed, but the failure was not God’s – it was Moses’…
Still, God did not give up on Moses. He remained the one chosen by God to help save the Israelites – but he had to do it God’s way, with a heart that had learned how to be attentive to God’s whispers in a world filled with violence and evil. The chastened Moses would allow God’s power to be on display, and not merely his own prowess. The world would know that it was God who had acted on behalf of his People, that God and God alone had freed them from so great an enemy. The humbling of Moses was an important first step in the formation of the leader God had chosen for his people.
In Lk 13, Jesus teaches his disciples using a parable: a vinedresser is frustrated with a fig tree in his care which is unable to bear fruit. He originally wanted to cut it down, but then decided to give it a reprieve – more time, during which he himself would carefully cultivate it. This story emphasizes that in our lives too, God can choose to allow extra time for growth and pruning – but pruning in God’s way, where God carefully cuts away whatever prevents us from developing into the person God envisions and needs.
Sometimes as life progresses, we experience dissatisfaction – and we might even be tempted to blame God! Yet today’s scriptures remind us that it’s probably our own choices that have contributed to any poor outcomes. Perhaps if we had searched more whole-heartedly in prayer at the time, we might have ended up with a better result. Pruning is NEVER a pleasant process, and often when God pushes us to make changes in our lives, we resist. Yet those very changes might in the end result in us becoming fruitful beyond our wildest expectations. Moses was originally a powerful prince in Egypt, and yet it was the humble shepherd of Midian whom God was able to use. Isaiah declares rightly: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Is 55:8). The sooner we learn this truth, the sooner God will see the fruit he desires.
There are moments in each of our lives when God inserts a Burning Bush, causing us to “turn aside” from wherever our earlier choices have led us, inviting us to “come and see” (Jn 1:39), and eventually to surrender to all that following him will mean. Our Burning Bush serves as an invitation from God who calls himself “I am who I am” (NABRE), or as the footnote in the ISV suggests: “I will be who I will be”. God is revealing not only a name by which he can be addressed, but who he is – who he wants to be…
God wants to be free to be who he is, free to do what he wants to do. He wants to come into our world, reveal himself, and ultimately invite us into a relationship that changes everything. Our only response in such a moment is to remove the sandals from our feet, knowing that the place where we stand is indeed Holy Ground.
-Sr. Patrice Yarborough
Sisters of St. Mary of Namur . 241 Lafayette Avenue . Buffalo, New York 14213 . (716) 884-8221