Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Surprised by God

Surprised by God

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
By Colleen O'Sullivan
Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian.  Leading the flock across the desert, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There an angel of the Lord appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush.  As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed.  So Moses decided, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.”  When the Lord saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses!  Moses!”  He answered, “Here I am.”  God said, “Come no nearer!  Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.  I am the God of your father,” he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.  The cry of the children of Israel has reached me, and I have truly noted that the Egyptians are oppressing them.  Come, now!  I will send you to Pharaoh to lead my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”  (Exodus 3:1-6, 9-10)
At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. (Matthew 11:25)


Lord, open the eyes and ears of my heart, that I may recognize you when you call my name.


The other night I went out to eat with a friend and her 2½ year old grandson.  When we were finished, the waiter gave the little boy his choice of balloon.  Once we got outside, he announced that he was going to launch it (I was amazed at his vocabulary) and to whom he was sending it   We stood there looking up until we could no longer see that speck of red in the sky.  This was done with the utmost sincerity and faith on that little boy’s part that he was sending a gift that would be received.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus says that God and all that is of God are revealed precisely to those who, like that toddler, possess this childlike sort of trust and openness. Many of us “wise and learned” adults (read, full of ourselves and skeptical) miss seeing and hearing God, even when God is staring us in the face, because of our preconceived notions about the Lord.
Moses, fortunately, still possesses childlike curiosity.  (This isn’t the Moses depicted by Cecil B. DeMille.  This Moses is rather down on his luck.  A Jew raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter, he has had to flee for his life after killing an Egyptian who was assaulting a fellow Hebrew.  He has taken on the lowly job of shepherding the flocks for his father-in-law.)  When he sees a burning bush in the field, he goes over to investigate it.  Moses notices a strange thing about this fire; nothing is actually getting burned up or turning to ash.  As Moses approaches, he is called by name and told to take off his sandals, because he’s standing on holy ground.  As he listens, he realizes that this is God speaking to him words he isn’t sure he wants to hear.  Who is he that God would select him to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt?
This same dynamic gets played out time and again in the Scriptures.  God taps someone on the shoulder or sends an angel to do it, saying I have selected you to be my prophet, my king, the mother of my Son… God is still at it today, appearing to us, speaking to us in ways and places we least expect, calling us to whatever mission he sets before us.


The question posed by the Gospel is will we see and hear God when it is our turn?  Are we what Jesus refers to as “the wise and the learned,” so full of preconceived notions we would miss God if he appeared outside the little box we’ve constructed for him?  Do we really believe God is found in all things? Is there still within us that wonder, trust and openness demonstrated by my friend’s grandson?  It’s always a surprise when God calls us, but are we still open to surprises?

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