Interceding for Others
I am going to ask you to think a bit during this homily. I want you to look at well-known scenario of the Prodigal Son. We know that this reflects on the mercy of the father and the anger of the obedient son. So, let’s do an exercise.
First, let us remember that the son did not ask to be welcomed back into the family, but only to be treated like a servant. The servants were treated better than what he received at the hands of others after he lost everything.
The father welcomes him back as a son, which is obviously restoring him to his full dignity. But what would happen if he did not do that, if he just rejected him outright as did the older son and by the way the servant who stirs up trouble with the older son.
You have to realize that the son would be totally lost. He would have absolutely no hope of a future and would have to return to where he was with the pigs. It would be a devastating rejection for him, although he certainly deserved it.
Now let’s us look at the first reading. We almost have that exact scenario there. Moses is up on the mountain receiving the commandments and while he is there, for over forty days, the people lose hope in his return. So, they start returning to the lives of the pagans with which they lived. They melt down their gold and create a golden calf whom they worship most likely like the Egyptians worshiped their pagan idols. It is also possible that the Hebrews—when they were slaves in Egypt—worshiped pagan idols as well. Remember, the ten commandments have yet to be received.
So now the Hebrews start to devolve, they give into their passions, their anxieties and their fears and they live in a community that will begin to fall apart without any intervention. If Moses did not return, they would have eventually turned on each other.
God realizes this and decides that there is no hope for his people. He then decides to destroy them and start all anew. It is Moses who pleads with them not to do so.
Who is Moses? A lot of people do not know this, but God gave Moses a share in his personhood. He sent Moses as His representative. Aaron was Moses’ prophet. So, Moses is not God, but he is so close to God that he is a participant in God’s divinity. He is not divine, but he is as close to divine as one can get outside of Mary and John the Baptist.
It is this sharer of God’s divinity something that no one else does until Jesus, that pleads with God himself not to destroy the ancient Hebrews. It is not in the reading you see here, but Moses actually says how stupid it would look for God to save his people, lead them to the desert and kill them.
This is important.
That role of Moses is your role today. Unlike the prophets and Aaron, you have a share in the divinity of Christ. It is right in your Baptismal promises and in the book of the Colossians.
Our role is to do all we can to intercede for others that they too may be saved even if they have strayed away from God.
That is who we are.
So what we see in the first reading is a reminder of whom we are as baptized Catholics.
There are many who do not understand that role and so they have different understandings of whom we are. So they believe:
We are just to be those who do good to others
we are to be busy working to ensure we go to Heaven
we are to just be what we want and go to Heaven anyway.
We have to be saints or we all go to Hell.
All these ideas, which do not accurately represent what we truly believe.
However, if we truly look at our call, we are exactly what our Baptismal promises say we are: We are sharers in Christ’s ministry as priest, prophet and king.
This is important because our call is to seeking to be holy and to be holy is to live not as pollyannas but as those who testify to Christ’s existence by our lives.
Never forget that many times the prophets were told not to speak but to act in a way that speaks to the people where words did not.
I have begun a practice I have done in every other parish and that is to walk a few nights a week around the area for about a mile working eventually to several miles if I can. I am wearing my clerics.
It does two things, first gives me the exercise I desperate need, but also just represents the presence of the Church. During this time, it is a difficult thing to do, I will admit. But just by doing that, is enough to just be a sign of the presence of the Church.
There is a fascinating admonition from St. Alphonsus Liguori to priests. He warns that the priest who lives to just save his own soul, will lose it. Why, because he did not see his role in leading so many more to Christ.
One of the reasons we have the crisis in the Church today is there is a loss of sense of what it means to be Catholic. Our role has to be in working to save others. The most important work we do is by interceding for others that they may be saved.
Moses’ role shows us deeply what we must do. The thoughts of the disaster if the Father rejected the son and refused to forgive him reflects where we would all be.
God calls us to be signs of his forgiveness and reconciliation. Let us be that.