HOMILY: 3rd SUNDAY OF LENT ‘C’ 2019
Following the recent tragic events of the gunning down of worshippers in two mosques in New Zealand, Jacinta Adern – the President – caught the attention of the world by one particular statement: that she would absolutely never utter the name of the man who carried out the massacres.
In saying this, she made clear the power, the significance, that belongs to a name. To speak someone’s name has the effect, in a certain way, of making that person present. To name someone accords that person a certain power, a definite importance Or, to see things from a different angle, if I reveal my name to you, I am, by doing this, granting you some power over me – I am, as it were, putting myself at your disposal.
Now in today’s First Reading, God reveals his own personal name to Moses. God calls to Moses from out of the burning bush: ‘Moses, Moses!’ ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.’ And then, after a few moments, God reveals his Name, in response to Moses’ question – ‘If the people ask me your Name, what am I to tell them?’ And God says to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM’: that is, the mysterious, never to be spoken personal Name of the God of Israel – the Name that in Hebrew is known as the Tetragrammaton, the Name of four letters, which in our English Bibles we read as ‘The LORD’.
We can very easily fail to see just how extraordinary it is that God should go so far as to reveal his own, personal Name to the leader of his People – and then go on to tell Moses to tell the sons of Israel this same intimate personal Name of their God: ‘I AM who I AM’. Like this, God, as it were, put himself at the mercy of his People – he entrusted himself totally to them. He showed himself to be totally ‘on their side’.
And what was true for the People of Israel is true in an even deeper sense for us. For us, God has gone even further. In Jesus, he has handed over his Name to us in bodily form. As Pope Benedict so often said: ‘Jesus is the human face of God’. However hard things may be for us, we can be totally confident that God is on our side – he has entrusted himself to us without reserve. He has made known to us his Name: Jesus. In Jesus, he literally puts himself into our hands.
We are currently living through very confusing and, for many people, very distressing times. Whether it is the crisis around abuse in the Church and the handling – or not handling – of that abuse, or the crisis of uncertainty surrounding Brexit in these final days leading up now to April 12th, we may well feel threatened, deeply insecure, as regards both our existence as Catholics and our existence as citizens of this country. In these circumstances, it is surely essential that we return again and again to the truth St Paul expressed in his Letter to the Church in Rome:
‘Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present – and of these present dangers we need no reminder – nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus’. So let us never waver in our confidence, let us hold fast and pray again and again:
‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord’.