Jewish midrash is a way of interpreting Hebrew Scripture that seeks to fill in the gaps and therefore bring forth truths of faith. A midrash on the scene of God appearing to Moses in the burning bush that we heard in the first reading (Ex. 3:1-8a,13-15) holds that the bush had thorns. God witnessed the suffering of the Hebrew people in Egypt, their daily struggle and pain, and therefore God chose to reveal Himself to Moses in the midst of a thorn bush to show that He is a God who is present in the midst of the suffering of his people.
The classic translation of the name that God provides Moses is “I am who I am.” Some scholars suggest that this translation relies too heavily on Greek thinking which tended more toward the philosophical and abstract. A translation that would lean more toward the Hebraic way of thinking which is more concrete and dynamic in its understanding of being is “I am the one who I am there.” In this understanding, the revelation of the name of God is immediately connected with his covenant to the people of Israel. God is not removed, God is revealed as a God who is in the midst of his people. God’s very being is a “being-for-His-people.”
In the first letter of John we are given the singularly important teaching that “God is love”. This is first and foremost but the way by which we know God as love is the way of mercy. Mercy is God’s love poured out, given that we might have life. When we were lost, when we had sinned and wandered far from God, God sought us out. God sought out Abram and made a covenant with him and his descendants. God hears the cry of his people in Egypt and he seeks them out. God enters into their suffering. God is “I am the one who I am there.”
The fullest revelation of who God is; is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ fully reveals both the love and the mercy of God and Christ is that full revelation of the name of God. In Christ, God fully enters into the thorns of our suffering. God is revealed in the very midst of our pain, our loss and our weakness. I am the one who I am there.
But we on our part need to make a choice. This is part of the gospel message for today (Lk. 13:1-9). Through the incarnation God has entered into his creation and its injustices and tragedies. I am who I am there. Christ acknowledges the unjust killing of the Galileans by Pilate as well as the tragic death of those people killed when the tower collapsed. We each have only so many days allotted us, what choice are we going to make? Christ comes to reveal the truth of who God is and to call us into relationship with Him because here and only here is where we will find true life. What choice will we make? We each have only so many days allotted us.
The midrash teaches that God revealed himself to Moses in the midst of a thorn bush. Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus, who is God with us and for us, is being scourged he is crowned with a crown of thorns? In a couple of weeks we will hold the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart Mission here at St. Dominic Church. The image at the center of the mission is the Sacred Heart of our Lord – a heart both divine and human and a heart surrounded by a crown of thorns beating in love and mercy for us.