Scripture in Depth
Reading I: Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
A single thread runs through today's readings. It is indicated by the name of God as revealed to Moses: “I am who I am,” or, as many contemporary exegetes interpret it, “He causes to be what comes into existence.”
Our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not the God of the philosophers (Pascal)—that is to say, not an abstract, impersonal reality, but the transcendent One who intervenes powerfully in human history.
God calls Moses and sends him to lead his people out of Egypt through the wilderness (Second Reading), refreshing them with water from the rock and bringing them into the Promised Land.
Then finally he sends his Son, offering his people one last chance to repent and accept his salvation (Gospel).
Once again the Exodus story functions in the liturgy as a type of the saving act of God in Christ. God sees the affliction of his people. He “comes down,” that is, intervenes in history out of his transcendence, to deliver them from the slavery of sin and to bring them into the land “flowing with milk and honey,” the kingdom of God.
Responsorial Psalm: 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11
In this psalm we praise God for showing his ways to Moses, and his works to the people of Israel, as these ways and works are spoken of in the first reading.
A psalm sung by Israel about the Exodus becomes a hymn of the Christian community celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ.
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
The situation confronting Paul at Corinth is that the Christians there are supposing that the sacraments automatically confer the fullness of salvation here and now. Probably the Corinthians were under the influence of early Gnostic enthusiasm.
Paul therefore has to stress the “not yet” aspect of the sacraments. They anticipate symbolically the fullness of salvation, but effectively they initiate and foster a process that looks to its final completion at the end.
To illustrate his point, Paul draws an analogy with Israel in the wilderness and finds in the Exodus story types of the two major Christian sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist: the children of Israel were baptized when they passed through the cloud and through the Red Sea, and they were nourished with spiritual food and drink by the manna and the water from the rock in the wilderness.
It is probable that Paul did not invent this typology but took it over from earliest Christianity.
It may well have had its origin in Jewish speculation about the messianic banquet and may have been taken up in pre-Pauline Christianity to interpret the eschatological banquets of the early community, such as those alluded to in Acts 2:42, 46.
Certainly there is rabbinic influence present in the idea that the Rock followed the Israelites, an inference from the fact that it is mentioned twice in the Pentateuch (Ex 17 and Num 20; a modern commentator would regard these as doublets of the same tradition).
More extraordinary is Paul's claim that “the Rock was Christ.” Probably the basis for this identification is the equation of Christ with the divine “wisdom,” the personified agent both of creation and of all God's acts in salvation history.
“Wisdom” stands for God's going out of himself in self-communication and activity. For Paul, as for the New Testament as a whole, God's going out of himself culminates in his redemptive act in Jesus.
Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
Jesus here refers to two recent disasters, otherwise unknown to historians. One was the outrage of a tyrant, the other an accident involving construction workers in Siloam.
From both events he draws a warning for Israel. Unless the nation repents, it too will perish. For Jesus, repentance means accepting his message of God's kingdom.
The parable of the fig tree reinforces the challenge to repent. This provides a link with the second reading: “Let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Neither the old Israel nor the new dare presume upon a false sense of security.
Reginald H. Fuller
**From Saint Louis University