The first reading — Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15 — tells of God’s call of Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses had fled from Egypt, where he had been raised in the royal household, because he feared that his killing of an Egyptian who was striking a Hebrew would become known. He had married Jethro’s daughter Zipporah. First God gets Moses’ attention with the miracle of the burning bush that was not consumed by the flames. God identifies himself as the God of the ancestors of the Hebrew people. He is concerned for them and listens to their prayers. On the past couple of Sundays we have heard of God’s covenant with Abraham and a synopsis of the history of Abraham’s descendants until their arrival in the promised land. Moses will lead them from Egypt to that promised land.
He asks God what his name is because knowing someone’s name was thought to create a bond and give some sort of power over him. If Moses can tell the Israelites God’s name, it will prove that God is supporting him. God’s response has been explained in various ways — I am for you, or it is my nature to exist, or I am self-sufficient and you can’t control me. The Hebrew of the name “I am” is transliterated “YHWH,” and it is considered so sacred that it is not to be pronounced aloud. Instead, when a it is encountered, the reader says “Adonai,” which means “Lord,” instead of pronouncing the name. (I’ve noticed that at least some Jewish people nowadays refer to God with the title “HaShem,” which means “the Name.”)
God is not only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he is also the God of this people descended from them.
In the responsorial Psalm — Ps 103: 1-4, 6-8, 11 — we meditate on God’s mercy and goodness to us. His saving deeds through Moses are an example of his merciful love in action.
The second reading — 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 — presents the events of the exodus and desert experience of the Israelites as a “type” (prefiguration) of elements of Christianity and draws a moral lesson for the hearers. Passing through the Red Sea is interpreted as prefiguring the Christian’s being set free from sin through baptism. But just as the Israelites could be punished when they disobeyed God, baptized Christians need to realize that they don’t “have it made:” they need to live holy lives.
In the gospel — Luke 13: 1-9 — Jesus gives a warning which is echoed by Pau in the reading from Corinthians: we need to repent, that is turn away from whatever evil is in our lives and be holy in all we do. He makes it clear that when disaster strikes, it is not God punishing sinners. There are sinners who don’t get “punished” in that way. But while God is patient with us, always seeking our conversion and giving us grace to convert — like the gardener with the fig tree — eventually our lives will be over, and if we still haven’t turned to God, we will not go to him then. Lent is a time when the call to repentance is especially urgent.