The Book of Exodus
The Book of Exodus is known as the Book of the Covenant. It established the Jewish nation as God’s chosen people. Today’s reading from Chapter 32 becomes more interesting if you open up you bible you will see a transition by God to change the way people worship. Chapter 20 is where God presents the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai and then an instruction about what the people are to observe. Starting at Chapter 25 there is an the elaborate instruction of how to build the sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant. What God is doing is shifting from the practice of worship of God in the form of a calf into worshiping the Ark of the Covenant. God is breaking the Israelites from the pagan practice of using a golden calf to represent the one true God into something totally new. To be honest, the pagans used a golden calf to represent what they felt was God. You can say therefore that this was not idiolatry. But it is also something that God no longer wanted them to practice because this old way of doing things could lead them back to their pagan ways. The problem occurs when Moses comes down from the mountain and finds his people worshiping the one true God via a golden calf. By doing this, a faction within the ranks of the Israelites was not only challenging Moses’ leadership, but also God’s sovereignty. Moses becomes the great intercessor for the Israelites and saves them from being destroyed by God. He also is a prototype of the one Mediator, Jesus Christ. In the end, God wins out and that dissident faction is annihilated by the Levites.
You cannot help but notice that the Ark is a prototype for the womb of Mary. The Ark contains the Word of God, the Ten Commandments. Mary holds the Word of God in her womb as a new ark. But did you ever think of the tabernacle in our church? It too contains the Word of God, Jesus Christ. In the time of Moses, if anyone touched the Ark, he died on the spot. Should we not be thinking of ways of reverencing our Ark by being quiet in the church and keeping food and drink out in the narthex?
I am going to use the short form of the Gospel when I preach this Sunday because we will revisit the parable of the Prodigal Son in Lent. Luke tries to show the foolhardiness of God when it comes to mercy. All of heaven rejoices at the conversion of just one sinner. If I owned a flock of one hundred sheep and my shepherd deserted the ninety-nine, leaving them vulnerable to predators, I would fire him. But God so loves the sinner that he would be that foolhardy just to save one. Who would go through such pains to find a small coin? The lost coin is a drachma. There are about 290 drachmas to the dollar. What effort would you put into finding a coin that is worth not even a third of a cent? But God is foolhardy when it comes to His mercy and He would do anything to get one wretched sinner to use his freewill to return to Him despite the fact that Jesus will suffer on the Cross to redeem him.
In the second reading St. Paul knows what it is to be a sinner. He once blasphemed God in his arrogance and persecuted the Christian believers. Why in the world would God choose him for the spread of the Gospel? He hated Christians and despised gentiles. Yet, God chose him to evangelize the gentiles and in the end we probably can attribute our Catholicism to him. When Paul converted there must have been a rejoicing in Heaven. The Church Fathers attributed St. Stephen’s execution to the conversion of St. Paul. What a moving greeting must have occurred when St. Paul entered Heaven and was greeted by St. Stephen!