In the first Chapter of John’s Gospel we read:‘’For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’’ This sentence shows the connection between Moses the Law-giver and Jesus Christ the Word Incarnate, and their role in the History of Salvation.
As I reflected on today’s readings I was reminded of a story, told to me by my mother, of an encounter her own mother had with the Parish Priest after she attended a Protestant Funeral Service. The deceased was the local Doctor, who had diligently served all the sick in the area irrespective of their religious persuasion or lack of means. Her mother would have known that Catholics were forbidden by Canon Law to attend a Service in a Protestant Church so it would t have come as no surprise to her to be denounced from the Altar the following Sunday and forbidden to receive Holy Communion. It was my grandmother’s response to the Parish Priest that resurfaced for me today as I reflected on the Readings – ‘’That is how you see it Father, but God sees it differently.’’ James reminds his listeners (James.1:22), ‘’Accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you’. My Grandmother and many more like her thought they were doing just that, though they incurred the wrath of their parish priests.
Moses too must have heard stories from his own mother during his childhood and he would have learnt from her what trusting in God really demands. Imagine her telling him of the political circumstances which influenced his childhood, saying something like, ‘’Before I gave give birth to you, Pharaoh commanded his people to throw all the baby boys born to Hebrew women into the Nile. I hid you for three months but on learning that homes were being searched I had to act quickly. Placing all my trust in God I made a basket and put you into it, placed it among the reeds on the bank of the Nile and I asked your sister to keep a look out to see what would happen. You won’t believe this, but who turned up at the moment your basket bobbled up and down in the reeds, but Pharaoh’s daughter. And when she opened it she saw you, a tiny baby, crying, and she took pity on you even though you were a Hebrew baby. That gave your sister courage to offer to get a wet nurse for you, and so she runs and got me. When you were strong enough I had to give you back to her and she brought you up as her own son.’’
During Moses’s adult life he spent some time attending to the flock of his father-in law’s sheep on Mt. Horeb. Here on this mountain, he really began to understand the God his mother worshipped. Later, it was on this mountain that he became aware that God had chosen him to lead the Hebrew People out of slavery into freedom when the Lord said to him,’’ I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings’’ (Exodus3:7).
We often hear it said of saintly people: ‘’God called them; He called them before they were born.’’ But God does more than call. He accompanies, protects and enables them so that they fulfil their unique calling. It was during this long and arduous journey of leading God’s people out of slavery to freedom, that Moses developed a deeper relationship with God. It was said of him that ‘’he spoke to God face to face as one speaks to a friend’’(Ex.33:11). The Ten Commandments communicated by God to Moses have the hallmark of the life-giving relationship which existed between God and Moses and have the potential also to enhance the lives of those who faithfully live by them because the core focus of the Commandments is love of God and loving of our neighbour as ourselves.
In sharp contrast the traditions and other observances of the elders which some of the Pharisees and Scribes focused on, lacked life-giving potential, and Christ spells this out for them by quoting the passage from the Prophet Isaiah which is recorded in today’s Gospel. (Mark 7:6-8)
‘’This people honour me only with lip- service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless;
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
You put aside the commandments of God to cling to human traditions.’’
Christ, when answering the question of these Pharisees and Scribes ‘’Why do your disciples not respect the traditions of the elders?’’ spells out the futility of their shallow focus and he lists twelve sinful acts which neither serves God, others, nor themselves, thus ignoring Moses’s key request; ’’take note of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them that you may have life’’ (Deut. 4:1).
If we walk the path of wisdom as Moses did, we will have the Lord our God so near to us whenever we call him. This will enable us to open ourselves to all that God desires to bestow on us and all he desires to ask of us. For us as for Moses, every gift is given so that we may respond to the needs of God’s People. Continually God is saying, ‘’I have seen the affliction of my people in every country on earth and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their suffering and I come down to deliver them.’’
Will he come through you or me? Are we willing to respond to God’s pain today? Are we willing to respond to ‘’God’s Call’’ today?
Sr. Caitríona Geraghty