Third Sunday of Lent
The call of Moses
Meanwhile 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.” …. “I am the God of your father ….the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” …. But the Lord said, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Ex 3,1-8a
Moses lived for one hundred and twenty years. He spent the first forty years at the Pharaoh court, who considered him as a son. Nevertheless, he was aware of his Hebrew origins and he was conscious in his heart of the mandate to liberate his people from the Egypt slavery. By some day, while visiting his Jewish brothers, he saw an Egyptian man hitting an Hebrew man and he killed him. Due to this irrational act, Moses had to escape from the Egypt and he took shelter in the land of Madian, in the Sinai, where he found hospitality at the Jethro house, a shepherd of whom he married one of the seven daughters, Zippora, who gave him an heir. Moses spent forty years in that land “taking care of the flock of Ietro, his father-in-law, priest of Madian”. He, who in his youth lived at the Pharaoh court and dreamed to liberate his people from the Egypt slavery, was downgraded to work as a shepherd, the worst being that the flock was not his property. The situation was as such when – so the today passage narrates – Moses “ drove the animals beyond the desert and he arrived at the Horeb mount. 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”. In front of this exceptional event he could have given only a glance continuing to pasture the flock, behaving as the monkey of the poetry “In front of Saint Guy” of Giosuè Carducci: “a grey monkey, nibbling a thistle, did not pay attention: he did not give credit to all that noise and continued to browse on slowly and seriously”. In Moses, however, despite that in the youth he had lost the glorious future which the life had prepared for him and consequently he was reduced to a routinely and lacking of enthusiasm way of life, the curiosity typical of a person which expects still something from the life was not yet extinguished. So, he thoughts: “ I want to go closer to see this great scene: why the bush does not burn?” The vocation of Moses is born by this whish of life and of an hope for better days, despite his failures. “The Lord saw that he got closer to see”. His great adventure of liberator of Israel and the march in the desert of the Sinai, which will last forty years until the arrival to the Promised Land, starts from here. The story of Moses gives to every man, whatever would be his condition and his status, a great teaching: the hope is never to be lost, because the Lord and the life can always offer something nice and very important to be done. This also teaches a truth which will become a rule in the gospel: the Lord rarely calls a person when he is at the top of his human success. He likes better to call a person who is among the difficulties, because it has to become clear that all that will be accomplished later on is his work.