by Father Mike Stubbs
Sometimes, a parent upset with the misbehavior of a child will shift that responsibility for that child by complaining to the parent about “your child.”
In Sunday’s first reading — Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 — God is taking exactly that approach by saying to Moses, “Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved.”
Notice that God says, “your people,” not “my people.” By calling the Hebrews “your people,” God is telling Moses that they are his re- sponsibility, not God’s.
When Moses attempts to calm God down, however, he respectfully asserts God’s responsibility for the Hebrews. Much as God did toward him, Moses refers to them as “your people.” He says, “Why, O Lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people?”
In his response to God, Moses supports his claim that the Hebrews belong to God by reminding God how the Hebrews were saved from the Egyptians by God. Through that saving action, God establishes a relationship with them. Moses also points out how God swore an oath to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Israel. If the Hebrews are destroyed, then God will not be able to live up to that promise.
God’s reputation is on the line.
Evidently, Moses is very convincing: “So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.” Notice that the text reads, “his people.” Even the writer of the Book of Exodus agrees with Moses that the Hebrew people belong to God, and not to Moses.
Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word in that sen- tence translated as “relented” can also be translated as “repented.” It’s the same word in Hebrew. It basically means “had a change of heart.” And that is what is really involved in repentance from sin. we sometimes think of repentance as beating yourself up, feeling miserable because of sin. But according to the Scriptures, a change of heart lies at the core of repentance. And fortunately for the Hebrew people, that’s what God had in regard to them.
Fortunately for us as well, God had a change of heart toward us. God wishes to forgive our sins. That is because we also are his people, the sheep of his flock.
Instead of Moses, Jesus Christ has interceded on our behalf. And he continues to intercede for us, at the right hand of the Father.