Third Sunday of Lent
1) Ex 3:1-8, 13-15
Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11
2) 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12
Gospel: Lk 13:1-9
St. Joseph was a man of few words. In fact, the Gospels record no spoken words from the man God chose to be the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. Joseph’s only recorded conversations are with angels who, in the silence of sleep, guide him on the path of his unique vocation.
In four dreams, God revealed his saving plan to Joseph at dramatic points in the story of Jesus’ birth. Joseph conversed with God through the messages of angels who told him to take Mary as his wife and give her son the name Jesus, to flee to Egypt to protect the child Jesus from the murderous Herod, to return to the land of Israel and to depart to the region of Galilee.
Joseph’s conversations with God, through God’s angelic messengers, were certainly unique. Yet in all the dramatic and difficult moments he faced, “Joseph declared his own ‘fiat,’ like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,” as Pope Francis writes.
In the first reading, we witness Moses’ encounter with an angel of the Lord who appears to him in fire flaming out of a bush, that was not consumed by it. And then we hear a remarkable conversation between God and Moses, who is called by name.
After asking Moses to pause and remove the sandals from his feet, God reveals his personal identity saying, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”
This conversation between God and Moses uncovers a fundamental truth about who God is and who we are in relationship to God. The Bible reveals that God is not an abstract, unknown, terrifying being whose unpredictability is to be feared and appeased.
Rather, the God who converses with Moses is at once the fullness of being itself, the “I am who am” and a personal being who desires the friendship of his creatures in a covenant relationship of eternal love, mercy and forgiveness.
The same God who spoke with Moses invites you and me to a renewed friendship this Lent. In the Gospel, Jesus points to the spiritual paths of repentance, humble acknowledgment of sinfulness and trust in God’s forgiving mercy. And the psalmist praises the Lord who is kind and merciful, “slow to anger and abounding in kindness.”
God’s personal invitation of love continues to unfold in the conversation with Moses. Like two friends speaking to each other, God opens his heart to Moses saying that he knows the suffering of the people of Israel!
God will rescue them from their oppressors in Egypt and lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey. God is not an angry, ruthless master who must be satisfied constantly, but a compassionate, loving friend who suffers with, accompanies and rescues his creatures with the power of divine, relentless love.
Jesus is the visible face of the invisible, all powerful and merciful God!
Lent is a graced time to begin and to deepen our daily conversation with God. As we open our hearts to hear God who speaks to us personally, we enter the mystery of Jesus’ filial relationship to God as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How will you respond to Jesus’ invitation to repentance and daily conversion of life this Lent?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.