Below is an exerpt from my homily Saturday, March 2nd
In our first reading, Moses meets God. Talk about a day out of the ordinary, Moses comes upon this burning bush and realizes he is in God’s presence. He asks God what he should call God, God replies I AM WHO I AM. I AM.
Now of course we could interpret this as God just being cryptic, covert, or just down right annoying and unhelpful. As if things weren’t already complicated for Moses, God has just called him to go convince and free a whole nation from slavery in Egypt and God wants him to begin it by going to the people and saying, “Hey guys, so I was out shepherding my sheep and stumbled upon a talking burning bush, turns out God was in the bush, and the bush told me God’s name is I AM and in that name I am to free you.”
But God actually wasn’t being cryptic, mysterious, or annoying; God was very intentionally revealing the core piece of God’s identity. God was revealing to Moses and ultimately to the people that he was not just another deity – a god of a certain land, a certain people, or a certain action – he wasn’t any of that. Instead God was revealing that God was the God of existence itself, and beyond even that God IS existence, as St. Thomas Aquinas said, when God revealed God’s self to Moses, God was revealing that God is the holy ground of all being.
And God’s identity reveals something powerful about us. If God is the very core of existence than everything that is, from the sun, to the nutrients in soil, to plants that spring up from those nutrients, to our very flesh and bone, are made up of God’s existence.
And what I believe God is calling us to in these readings is to pay attention, pay attention to existence, pay attention to the sun, to the soil, to the plants, and most importantly to our flesh and bone because this is where God is, this is where life is.
In the book Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape, a senior devil, is writing to his nephew Wormwood, a junior devil. Screwtape is offering tips to his nephew on how to get humans to move away from God – how to tempt them. Screwtape informs Wormwood that “humans live in time but God destines them for eternity” and as such God wants humans to live in the present because “the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.” Meaning it is only in the present moment that humans experience God, touch God, enter God’s presence.
We have been given a single commandment, “To love God and love neighbor.” In order to fulfill that commandment we need to live right now, not in nostalgia or regret, not in dreams or dread but right now. It is paying attention to this moment, right here, right now that we can fully be alive, that we can fully be exactly who God calls us to. And while God is always with us, even in our most anxious moments and most regretful thoughts, both God and we most truly exist in the present moment.
God, the very core of existence, is right here, right now – in your flesh, in your bones, in the flesh and bones of the person next to you – this is where God is. What God is asking us is what will we do with this very moment – will we pay attention to it – will we take notice of our own presence here, our neighbors presence, God’s presence and choose to love or will we dream and fret over the past and the future, choosing to participate in what doesn’t exist right now, where we do not exist, where God does not exist?
God is calling us, God is telling us, God is shouting at us, “This moment is important. Pay attention.” This moment right now – this is the only moment that exists and as such this is the only moment where our being, our very selves intersect with God, intersect with the I AM. This is where life is, this is the only time where we can love God and love neighbor.
Our challenge is to set aside our worries, our dreams, our nostalgia, our regrets, for just this moment, right now, and pay attention – pay attention to your own hands and feet, pay attention to the bread you will eat and the wine you will drink, pay attention to the person sitting beside you, pay attention to the hands you will shake and the embraces you will enter. Pay attention because God is saying to us, “This where I AM. This is the moment where you and I touch. Where you and I live in love together. This is all that matters. This is important. Pay attention. This is life.”
– Deacon Corein Brown