3rd Sunday of Lent (3-7-10)

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3rd Sunday of Lent, Mar. 3, 2010 (Ex.3:1-8,13-15; 1 Cor.10:1-6,10-12; Lk 13:1-9) Like last week in Genesis, so today’s reading from Exodus is part of an epiphany, though technically it’s a “theophany.” A theophany is literally an “appearance of God.” Here the “unburning” burning bush draws Moses into an encounter with the living God, who reveals to Moses the divine name. As in an epiphany, these elements provide the backdrop for the encounter with God. The unusual bush, the voice, and the design
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  3rd Sunday of Lent, Mar. 3, 2010(Ex.3:1-8,13-15; 1 Cor.10:1-6,10-12; Lk 13:1-9)Like last week in Genesis, so today’s reading from Exodus is part of anepiphany, though technically it’s a “theophany.” A theophany is literally an“appearance of God.” Here the “unburning” burning bush draws Moses into anencounter with the living God, who reveals to Moses the divine name.As in an epiphany, these elements provide the backdrop for the encounter withGod. The unusual bush, the voice, and the designation of the place as holy groundare all used as a prelude to the main act which is the revelation of the divine name.Power over names was an important biblical concept. Even today, people ableto remember names are very impressive to those remembered. Some argue thatknowing people’s names is a real power tool. Here, knowing the name would giveMoses a certain power of familiarity with God.First, God identifies with the Hebrew ancestral God, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Some Jewish commentariessuggest that the repetition of God before each name means that like the patriarchs,so each person must believe in God individually. Moses hides his face at thisrevelation since it was thought one who looked on the face of God would die. ButMoses still presses God for more information. By revealing the name of the God inwhose name Moses comes, he will have added authority for his mission to hiskinfolk.Unfortunately the revelation of the name in English translation makes no moresense than it does in Hebrew. The first response God gives to the question is “I amwho I am.” This is an attempt at translating what is almost impossible to translatefrom Hebrew ( ehiyeh asher ehiyeh ). This has been translated in many ways (“I will be who I will be”, “I am what I am”, etc.). None satisfies. All seem to be some formof the Hebrew verb “to be”.The divine name eventually comes out in Hebrew as YHWH, which is usuallytranslated as ‘the Lord”. We used to see the name Yahweh occur in songs for theliturgy, until the Vatican banned its use and pronunciation in 2008. At one time thismay have been the way Jews pronounced the divine name. But Jews for manycenturies have spoken different words (“Adonai”) every time the name YHWHappears, to avoid taking the name of God in vain. When the letters for Y-H-W-Hare combined with the vowel sounds for “Adonai” (ah-oh-ah) it resulted in  “Jehovah.” It’s a somewhat complicated evolution, but “Jehovah” as a name for God is a non-starter. In any case, in the liturgy Catholics must use “Lord” or “God”or some other expression for YHWH.In considering the Gospel we have more troubles in understanding the text.Luke is the only evangelist who mentions the Galileans whom Pilate had put todeath. He’s also the only evangelist to mention the eighteen deaths when the tower fell at Siloam, probably part of the wall of Jerusalem. Finally, Luke is also uniquein presenting the parable of the barren fig tree.Historical details aside, the point is that death is not a punishment. Deathhappens whether evilly as in murder or by accident as with the sudden deaths at theSiloam Tower. Jesus uses death as the spring board to emphasize the need for repentance. Death (and presumably destruction) will come upon anyone who failsto repent. Jesus himself a Galilean, does not try to avenge the Romans (and Pilate)!He appeals rather for repentance while it is still available. The time to change isnow!Fr. Lawrence L. Hummer 
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