*Alternate* First Reading: Reflections on Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15

Reflections by Richard Rohr and Judy Porter on readings from the book of Exodus.

Richard Rohr (an American Franciscan priest and writer on spirituality) talks about the Book of Exodus (“Exodus” meaning “the way out”): “Egypt is the place of slavery, and the promised land is the place of freedom. The journey from Egypt to the promised land is a standing paradigm for the universal struggle from slavery to freedom — and thus for the spiritual journey as well. The story of Israel symbolically describes the experience of our own liberation by God, which is both an inner freedom and an outer freedom, or it is not real liberation.”

Exodus recounts the story of the escape of the ancient Israelites from Egypt. Moses is the historical character at the heart of the Exodus event and of the spirituality that grew from that experience. Moses had fled from Pharaoh after killing an Egyptian and consequently had been transformed from a prince of Egypt to a shepherd in far-off Midian.

Moses experiences God talking to him from a bush that burns but is not consumed.  God stunned Moses when he said, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” The Israelites think God has forgotten them. God says, “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 that they are suffering.” God shows us that his connection to the people was always there.

Moses has objections to God right away about being the one to go. “But,” said Moses to God, “when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘what is this God’s name?’ what am I to tell them?” The meaning of God cannot be captured because it’s beyond concepts and words. The actual name can be translated several ways, but the essence of it seems to be that God simply is.God is not the product of other beings or forces or resources, nor restricted, enlarged, or modified, and not controlled by anything or anyone. Everything else in the world has been made or developed or evolved. Only God simply is — self-existent, independent, sovereign, beyond the control of any other power. Because God can’t be defined, God replied to Moses, “Tell them ‘I AM who I AM.’ This is what you shall tell the Israelites: ‘I AM sent me to you.’ ”  God says to Moses, “I will be with you. The success of your mission depends not on your ability and power, but on my constant presence with you.” God says, “It doesn’t matter who you are, because who I am is more than enough to accomplish what I promise.”

Over the course of this story, despite the failings and limitations Moses perceived in himself, he is liberated by God’s faith in him, and this provides him inner freedom. Here Moses has personally moved from his own enslavement of past wrong-doings, fear, unworthiness, and loneliness to inner freedom. According to Richard Rohr, Moses’ spiritual strength offers liberation, that is inner freedom that comes from knowing God’s faith in him. Moses’ works with outer freedom, freeing the Israelites, liberating them from slavery, from the house of bondage. Moses is working for freedom, justice, and truth for others. Rohr explains that the Exodus was both an inner journey and an outer journey.  He believes that we don’t have true freedom or salvation if the inner journey does not match and lead to an outer journey. “Spirituality and action are connected from the very beginning and can never be separated. Action and spirituality must meet and feed one another.”