16 July 2015


15th Week OT (Thur): Ex 3.13-20; Matt 11.28-30
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Church, NOLA

God reveals Himself to Moses on Mt Horeb as “ipsum esse subsistens.”* Who God Is and That God Is are identical. As Being Himself there is no difference between God's essence (who) and His existence (that). No difference, no distinction. Using the first person imperfect of the Hebrew verb “to be,” God unveils the mystery of His abiding presence to Moses as: I AM Who Is. At this revelation we are stunned into reverent silence. It is unlikely that any limited creature will truly grasp the full measure of this unveiled mystery. So, we must ask: who among us, when pressed with disaster, cries out: “Being Itself! Help me!”? Who among us, when possessed by joy, sings: “Ipsum Esse Subsistens, I give you thanks!”? None of us gets out of bed on Sunday morning to offer praise and thanksgiving to Essential Existence. No Christian soul searches for love in I AM WHO AM. Our faith and hope excel in a God Who has always, is now, and will always be our Father, our brother, and our very life here on earth and in heaven to come. 
Along with preaching his Good News, Jesus spends a great deal of time warning anyone who will listen that the Way back to the Father is an adventure worthy of heroes. There will be great deeds performed by those of us who follow him: moments of triumph over evil; terrible injustices rectified; diseases and infirmities cured; demonic spirits expelled. We will also suffer harrowing tests: religious and political persecution; exile and torture; and even death for the sake of his name. To join this salvation epic all we must do is abandon family and friends; shrug off wealth and prestige; go out into the desert of selfless service; and follow behind him, bearing our crosses to a sacrificial end. He promises us suffering, and our deaths are guaranteed. How strange is it then that we hear Jesus say this morning, “...my yoke is easy, and my burden light”? What's so easy and light about torture and death?! Wealth and security sound much easier and a whole lot lighter! For that matter, I am not particularly soothed by the prospect of being water-boarded defending the honor of Essential Existence.

Fair enough, pain and suffering do not seem to be much of an incentive to risk life and limb in the defense of Esse Subsistens. But do wealth, prestige, and the boredom of security offer us the adventure of preaching the Good News of God's mercy, of bringing the lost back into the family, of living lives steeped in the luxury of knowing that we serve a God of loving-care? Can anyone we attach ourselves to in this world offer us a life beyond temporary affection? Can anything we own guarantee happiness beyond its limited warranty? Even the praise of our fellow citizens fades and the awards we win get dusty and dry. Nothing created—no existing thing—can ever bring us to the excellence that God has created us to be. With Him—Perfect Being—we are made fully human, impeccably whole. Will you suffer and die for the sake of sharing in this promised glory?

God unveils the mystery of His Being to Moses. To Moses God is revealed as I AM WHO IS and WHO WILL ALWAYS BE. But He says to Moses as well, “I have watched over you with care; I am concerned about you and My people. Go tell them that I have sent you to deliver them from the misery of slavery for My sake.” To Moses Ipsum Esse Subsistens promises deliverance and He does exactly that. To us, He not only promises deliverance from slavery, He promises an eternal life with Him in Christ. The Father promises; the Son delivers; and the Love they share comes with us on the Way, lifting the burden of our labors by showing us how to love one another as God Himself loves. Even the sweatiest work is made easy when it is done for love.

* "Subsistent Being Itself" is Aquinas' description of God's nature.
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