Twenty-second Sunday 2006 B
For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?
I learned that lesson again these past weeks when I was making my annual 8-day retreat on the Cape and directing others’ retreats at our Jesuit retreat house in Gloucester. I learned again that God is as close to me and to you as the beating of our hearts. I learned again that Jesus Christ has made this intimacy with God possible. In his living, dying and rising, Jesus reveals God as the “heart of the matter”
But it’s not an easy lesson to learn. With our questions, critiques doubts we can deny this radical intimacy with God. I know I often ask myself the question, “ how can God be interested in the minutiae of my life?” There are so many people in the world. Why would God pay attention to me, my needs, and my desires and how does God hear my prayer?
One of the things that an 8 day and certainly a 30 day retreat does is begin to strip away the veneer, make the defenses crumble, and just let the authentic person, free from palm pilots and personal agendas simply be. In just being without having to do anything one can come to a knowledge of this primary relationship of creature and creator. During this time that is about “nothing’’, everything takes on meaning. From the movement of the tiniest creature to the majesty of brilliantly colored sunrise, from the slightest movement of the soul to a flood of feelings of love and rapture, every bit of life is pregnant with meaning. Nothing seems to be by chance but everything is “tuned in”.
During this particular retreat, I happened to come across a little book by Cardinal Carlo Martini, called Through Moses to Jesus. Ironically I had been praying about the scene of Moses and the burning bush before I came across this book. What I read in the book so connected with my prayer that I said, hmm, guess I should be reading that book. This is a long narrative wind up to get to the point that connects with today’s readings. You’ve got Moses in the first reading and Jesus in the Gospel. Aha! I think Martini’s book is not only helpful for prayer but also for a homily. Thank you Jesus!
In this brilliant little book Martini beautifully articulates the power and humanity of the person of Moses as he encounters the mystery of God and leads God’s people out of Egypt. One of the distinguishing factors about Moses is that he is as “Martini says, “ A man of big numbers.” Moses is always dealing with life on the grand scale. Rarely do you see him in personal relationship, rather he is either alone with God or in the midst of the people as leader. Moses is the mediator between God and the people. And that mediation is in the giving of the Law. The fidelity to the law is the way in which the people will be intimate with God. God binds himself to this people in covenant. The Mosaic Law is not only a gift from God but is the way to God, the truth of God, and expresses the life of God. The challenge that Moses offers the people is to be faithful to this law which for them is the way the truth and the life of a people.
( It is interesting that in our contemporary political scene one of the issues that has caught the media’s attention is Joseph Lieberman’s following the orthodox interpretation of the Mosaic law. It reminds us again that different people come to God in different ways. For an orthodox Jew this fidelity to the law is not arbitrary but is the way par excellence of being faithful to the Covenant God made with the people of Israel through Moses.)
You may ask, but what about the critique of the law as we hear it in Mark’s gospel? Jesus does not challenge the law but rather challenges a rigorous legalism that sees the law as an end in itself and not as a means to intimacy and fidelity with God. This may be because, Jesus reveals himself as a “people” person, one who is more interested in what’s inside a person more than outer appearances.
Martini contrasts Moses and Jesus by saying that if Moses is the “man of big numbers, Jesus is the “man of small numbers”. The stories of Jesus are primarily stories of one-on one relationships. “ Jesus takes one person or another at a time. He stops to chat. He waits until the other understands, until the person undergoes a process of purification and can finally open his or her eyes and see.” There is a primacy of the individual with Jesus. Jesus invests himself in relationship with those who need to hear his voice, to feel his touch, to see his face. This is what I learned again in those 8 days. I needed to hear his voice, to feel his touch and to see his face. And I did.
As Martini says, “The risen Jesus is present to each one, as though the individual loved person were the only object of his love. The risen Christ is the love of God revealed in our hearts by the Spirit, in the hearts of each and of all and in each of all”For our Jewish sisters and brothers there is a call to be faithful to the Law of Moses and the law of love written in their hearts. For those of us who call ourselves disciples and friends of Jesus, we must first let him love us and then love each other as he has loved us. That is the heart of the matter.