Browsing Homilies

Third Sunday of Lent

Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15 | Ps 103 | 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 | Lk 13:1-9

Some of the most interesting and compelling stories in the Bible are about God’s call to ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Consider Abraham and Sarah: they were an elderly couple, well beyond the age when they could have children. And yet God called them to be the parents of a great nation. Consider King David: he was a young shepherd whom God called to lead Israel to defeat the Philistines and then establish the nation of Israel. Throughout both Testaments, God calls those who seem to be the weakest and most sinful to accomplish great things through His almighty power.

Today’s first reading tells the story of God’s call to Moses. We know Moses to be the great prophet who led the people out of slavery in Egypt and guided them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. We also know him as the great law-giver, through whom God gave the commandments to the people of Israel. But that is not the Moses we meet in today’s first reading. At this point in the Book of Exodus, Moses is a fugitive from Egypt. He was on the run because he had killed a man who was mistreating a Hebrew slave.

It is to this murderer, this fugitive, that God reveals God's Self and calls Moses to lead His people out of slavery.

What do you suppose is the number one thing that keeps people from drawing close to God? It's a sense of their own sinfulness and unworthiness. We believe that our sins are just "too great" for us to be of any use to God. You might have heard a family member or friend say, “If I walked into church, the ceiling would cave in!” There may be some people here today who feel the same way about themselves. "I’m just no use to God because I am too sinful."

However, no one is so sinful that God cannot forgive and heal them. If only perfect people were capable of serving God, then no one would be capable of serving God. Every person is a sinner. There is no one who hasn’t offended God or hurt others in one way or another. The great prophet, Moses, was a murderer! Can you imagine a worse sin than that? And yet he was chosen by God to lead the people out of slavery. If you think you are unworthy to have a relationship with Jesus or have God use you to serve others, is it because you have committed a sin as serious as murder? Hopefully not. Even if you have, God still can forgive you and use you to speak His word to others - even if it’s in prison.

So, God calls Moses, the murderer, from a burning bush. A bush on fire in the desert is not unusual. However, this bush was burning without being turned to ashes. The fire wasn’t destroying its leaves or branches. God used this curiosity to get Moses' attention and draw Him into a conversation.

The same is true for us. God draws us into a relationship with Him by first getting our attention with something that will interest us. For instance, God might use someone’s interest in history to show someone how the Catholic Church was central in forming Western Civilization. That then leads the person to learn more about the Church, and in the process to learn more about God. Or God might use someone’s interest in art to guide them to religious imagery that will move their heart through love for beauty. The same is true for many other interests we might have - even politics or sports. God is the creator of all things and can use anything to get our interest and draw us into a conversation with Him.

What interests do you have? What is your attention typically drawn to? If it is something good and wholesome, it can eventually lead you to God. And if you don’t think that God, or the Bible, or the Church are very interesting, then you probably haven’t been paying attention. Spend some time in meditation, open the Scriptures and start reading, or research the history of the Church. You will find plenty there to capture your attention and your imagination. And then let God use those interests to lead you to a relationship with Him.

In the Bible, whenever God calls people to a special mission, they typically have an excuse why they’re not the right person for the job. Though we don’t hear it in today’s first reading, Moses tells God that he can’t speak to pharaoh because he has a speech impediment. Everyone in the Bible had an excuse. Abraham told God that he was too old. Jeremiah told God that he was too young. Isaiah told God that he was too sinful. God doesn’t need to hear excuses.

The fact is that God does not call the most qualified person for the work He wants them to do. If so, we might think that it was because of the strengths and talents of the person that the work was done and not because of the mighty power of God. For instance, if Moses had been a great moral leader with a gift for speaking, the people might have believed that it was Moses who freed them from slavery rather than God. Instead, God wants to make it clear that it is because of His love that He acts in the world today. To make that happen, He needs people who are flawed and weak to carry out His plan.

The same is true for us today. God will always call us to something that is beyond our power to accomplish. It will unsettle us and make us nervous. It is true for the great work that many Christians are called to and it is true for vocations as commonplace as religious life, marriage, and parenthood. But God is faithful. He never abandons us. He will be with us every step of the way as He was with Moses and with every other woman and man He has ever called. 

Each one of us who has been baptized has a calling from God to serve Him in one way or another. If we have been great sinners, then He is now calling us to be great saints. In each of our hearts there is a longing for something more than this world can offer and a belief that we are capable of so much more than we are currently doing. God uses that yearning to draw us into a relationship with Himself just as He used Moses’ curiosity about the burning bush to draw Him into a conversation. If we have excuses or fears that are holding us back, God understands. But He wants to lift us up beyond all that to be fully the people He has called us to be. Today is the day to ask God to reveal to us what He would have us do and ask for the courage to do it.


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