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3/24/19 Third Sunday in Lent - Fr. Reggie

John Wooden was one of the most successful coaches in NCAA basketball history. His UCLA Bruins won 10 national championships in 12 years. He coached them to 4 undefeated seasons.

You might think that John Wooden had learned everything there was to know about basketball. Think again. He often repeated the maxim: “If you’re finished learning…. you’re finished!”

Let’s take that to heart today, as we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Lent. What lesson do we learn from the readings we just read? And in particular, what lesson does the burning bush teach us?

Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro. Think about this for a minute. Moses was the foster-son of the daughter of the king of Egypt. He was acustomed to a life of luxury. But he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave and had to flee from Egypt into the desert. He had a lot of time on his hands as he tended sheep. He started to recalibrate his life. He started to ask questions.

And God spoke to him. He saw that Moses was seeking him. And so he appeared in a burning bush. The bush intrigued Moses, because it was burning but not consumed. But this was more than idle curiosity. Moses says to himself: “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight.” And that choice made all the difference.

Moses may well have said, along with John Wooden, “If you’re finished learning… you’re finished!” He wanted to know more. He drew near the burning bush and God called him by name.

There’s a profound lesson here for our own lives. Today we’re halfway through Lent, a time God gives us as a journey into the desert. We too need a little more silence and a little more reflection in order to see the burning bush of God’s presence and draw near it. And God is hoping that we have the same response as Moses: “I want to know this God who is not distant but who, in Jesus, has come into my life.” “I want to draw near him; I want his light that helps me find my purpose in life. I want to hear God call my name.”

Moses drew near to God, and entered into a relationship with him. In his novel All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doer (pronounced “Door”) describes what happens when we truly draw near.

Marie-Laure is a blind girl in France just before World War II.

Her father works in the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and one of the scientists befriends Marie-Laure. He describes the different specimens in his office, and then lets her hold them. “Her hands move ceaselessly, gathering, probing, testing. The breast feathers of a chickadee are impossibly soft, its beak as sharp as a needle...”

And then Doerr adds a remarkable insight. “To really touch something, Marie-Laure is learning – the bark of a sycamore tree in the gardens, a pinned stag beetle, the exquisitely polished interior of a scallop shell – to really touch something is to love it.”

To really touch something is to love it. Moses drew near the burning bush, and, in a sense, he touched God. And he began to discover a love that filled his life and gave him purpose and a mission.

When we draw near God and truly touch him, the same thing happens to us. 

The early Christians used to say that if you have seen your brother or sister you have seen Christ. Christ identifies himself with each person. So if we want to draw near the burning bush this Lent – if we want to draw near God – we must draw near our suffering neighbor with real love.

In one of his messages for Lent (2016), Pope Francis said: “In the poor, the flesh of Christ becomes visible in the flesh of the suffering…to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us.”

Here are two take-away resolutions from Pope Francis’s words.

  • Acknowledge. Is my heart moved by the suffering of others? If not, I need to ask God to do some open-heart surgery. And one of the best ways to do this is to pray for others. I could commit to praying every day for someone who is suffering (either someone I know or someone I hear about in the news). So Acknowledge others’ suffering.
  • Touch. Am I close to those who suffer? Do I reach out to them? St John of the Cross said that at the end of our lives God will examine us on love. He won’t care too much about “success” but he will ask us if we’ve loved and reached out to those in need. I could call someone who needs it. I could write a letter. I could visit a nursing home.  So Touch – reach out to the suffering.

We give all that to Christ now, who is about to give himself to us in the Eucharist. God wants to be that close to us; we matter that much to him. The Eucharist is the fulfillment of his promise to be with us till the end of time. The Eucharist is the strength we need to draw near to others with real love.  

 

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