What if you and I were not here in church, in Russia,
but we were walking in downtown Columbus or Dayton or Cincinnati?
And a man runs up to us and asks to know your name?
What would be your reaction? Your immediate reaction?
Are you entirely comfortable giving him your name? Your full name?
I’m guessing not. I’m guessing that you would, like me,
find that uncomfortable and awkward.
If someone asked me that, my first question would be, why do you ask?
The point is, sharing my name with someone is a kind of intimacy.
It opens up unknown possibilities. There’s a risk involved.
In the first reading, Moses asks to know God’s Name.
He wants to draw closer to God.
After all, Moses and God’s People had been in slavery
for over 400 years.
The stories of what God did in Abraham’s life,
in the lives of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph, were all distant memories.
Perhaps even God himself seemed very distant.
So notice, God tells Moses, “I am the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”
Then Moses asks, but the people will want to know your name.
In Hebrew – the language in which this was written –
names far more significance than just what something is called.
As scholar John Bergsma explains,
“in Hebrew culture, the “name” designated the essence or being
of the person” – it’s not just what someone is called.
So what God tells Moses – when he says, “I AM WHO AM” –
he is revealing his true nature: he is the One who truly and fully exists;
he is being and existence in himself.
He is the Source; everything depends on him for existence and life.
Think about what was happening to God’s People in Egypt.
They were slaves. Their lives didn’t belong to themselves;
they belonged to Pharaoh.
As far as Pharaoh was concerned, he was their existence;
he was their god.
This is a challenge and temptation we all face:
what is the real purpose and center of my life?
What things in my life are too important?
What shapes my life, other than God?
Of course we all need to make a living;
so we need our jobs, our farms, our businesses.
But that doesn’t mean they have to become our Pharaoh.
One of the most important things we can do is to consecrate our work,
our farms, our businesses, to God.
The Morning Offering prayer is an easy way to do that;
as well as pausing during our work day to remember that God is our god,
not our job, and not anything else on this earth.
A lot of us have consecrated our homes to the Sacred Heart.
If you haven’t done this, and you want to know how, let me know.
By the way, this is one of the reasons the Sabbath is important.
The slaves in Egypt didn’t get any Sabbath, any day off.
Every day, they belonged to Pharaoh.
When they left Egypt, they began to have a day of rest,
which means they were free.
It’s interesting that today, something similar happens.
People have debts, or are struggling to make a living,
and what’s the result?
They have to work an extra job, or two,
and then they are back in Egypt: no Sabbath, no day of rest.
We can understand those who work on Sunday because they have to.
But not everyone has to. Sometimes we choose to.
What god are we serving when we do that?
But I want to go back to this encounter Moses had with God.
God revealed his name – his true nature – to Moses,
that he is Life, Existence, Being-in-itself.
Now, go back with me to the very beginning, Adam and Eve.
God gives them existence. They have everything.
Then they sin; they fail to trust God, and turn from him.
And if you will recall,
Genesis says that they tried to hide themselves from God.
Do you realize what happened at that moment?
They lost the center of themselves.
That’s what turning from God did to them.
One moment they were united to Existence, to Life; and bam!
They lost it. Can we even imagine what that might have been like?
It must have been staggering.
This is what we call Original Sin.
We all “inherit” that same poverty, that hole in our chests,
where God belongs.
And what do we do? We find ways to fill it.
Work; sports; sex; food, alcohol, money; friends. There’s a long list.
That loss of God is the problem we all have in common.
It’s why we need to be baptized;
it’s why parents do well to bring their children for baptism
soon after birth.
Baptism isn’t the last step, but the first.
This is why we need to learn who Jesus is,
and why it’s so important we help one another find him.
We need his friendship.
He fills that hole in our lives.
That’s why Jesus said: do you think those folks the tower fell on
were worse than you? We’re all in the same boat.
We all have that hole in our soul. Only Jesus will fill it.
If you’re not sure what Lent is for,
and what you’re trying to accomplish, then there’s your task.
Forget the other stuff that isn’t filling that need.
Seek friendship with Jesus. Talk to him.
Seek him in the sacrament of confession.
Let him accompany you in your day.
Let him make your life fruitful.
He will fill that hole.