by Father Mike Stubbs
Moses grew up in Egypt, a land where many gods were worshiped. In many cases, they were personified elements of nature. For example, the sun, whose rays shed light on the earth, was identified as the god Ra.
Similarly, Nut was the goddess of the night; Sobek, the god of the Nile River; and Horus, the god of the sky.
In contrast to these, the people of Israel were to worship only one God, who spoke to Moses in the burning bush, who was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai and who gave Moses the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments.
Moses learns the proper name of the one God, a name we believe was pronounced something like “Yahweh.”(Out of respect for God’s name, people were reluctant to utter it, so the exact pronunciation is uncertain. Whenever you see “Lord” written out all in capital letters in the Old Testament, that is the English translation of God’s proper name.)
In Sunday’s first reading — Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9 — God’s proper name appears five times. Moses has an encounter with God, an encounter in which he gains insight into God’s nature, “the Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
By learning that there is the one God, in place of the many gods of Egypt, the people of Israel were taking the first step in their understanding of God.
Through their relationship with God, they would further develop that understanding. God was the one who would guide them through the desert to the Promised Land of Canaan.
God would lead them through their lives by means of the Law of Moses and, above all, by means of the Ten Commandments. God would not be an impersonal and distant overlord, but someone who would be closely involved in their lives.
Through Jesus Christ, we gain a further insight into God’s nature. We believe in one God, who is made up of three persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On Sunday, we celebrate this mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Along with Jews and Muslims, we profess a belief in one God, as the creed we recite at Mass affirms, “I believe in one God.”
But as Christians, we go a step further. We acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God. We open our hearts to their Holy Spirit, whom they send to sanctify us, and through us, the world.