by Father Mike Stubbs
Aren’t you lucky? This Sunday at Mass, you will get to hear two homilies, not just one.
Your priest or deacon will preach one of those homilies, at the usual time, after the Gospel reading. But before that, you will hear another homily, during the first reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy (4:32-34, 39-40).
The word “Deuteronomy” means “second law” in Greek. Essentially, that book restates the law of Moses, hence the name. It repeats, explains and elaborates material originally presented in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus. But it does so in the form of a long discourse delivered by Moses. In many ways, that discourse resembles a homily. That is how we can say that a section from it will supply you with a second homily this Sunday.
Moses begins his remarks by reminding the Israelites of how God
has blessed them. First of all, God has spoken to them, rather than to another nation: “Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?” The specific occasion referred to involves the revelation on Mount Sinai: “Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the Lord came down upon it in fire” (Ex 10:18). According to Moses, God has further blessed the Israelites by bringing them out of slavery in the land of Egypt: “Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your eyes?”
After reminding the Israelites of these things, Moses draws two conclusions. First of all, there is only one God, the one who has done all these things for them — “the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” Secondly, the Israelites must obey this law which comes from God: “You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today.”
If the people comply with this instruction, then God will reward them.
God will make sure that “you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever.”
The Book of Deuteronomy presents Moses’ discourse as one delivered to the people of Israel more than three thousand years ago. But because it
has been committed to writing, that discourse echoes down through the centuries. In a sense, Moses is speaking to us as well.
As Christians, we believe that some parts of the law of Moses do not pertain to us. But there are many parts that do, that reflect a universal character binding upon all human beings. That is why it remains of lasting value to us.
Sunday’s reading emphasizes how Israel is different from the other peo- ples of the world, how God has blessed them, rather than others. But subse- quently, we know that God blessed all the peoples of the world through Israel — above all, through Jesus Christ. Through him, many have come to know the one God, the one who spoke to Moses so long ago.