Moses’ Psalm: Light and Dark

Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

August 17, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Deuteronomy 32, the Psalm of Moses. Today’s verses describe an angry God who decides to take vengeance a faithless people. 

To pray with these verses is not easy. Taken in isolation, they paint a God who contradicts our larger experience of mercy and tenderness. But the Psalm, like the jarring first reading from Ezekiel, has a lesson for us.

Ezekiel from Biblical Images by James Padgett

In that reading, Ezekiel suffers the sudden death of his beloved wife. The experience opens his prophetic spirit to more fully understand God’s relationship with Israel. He allows his life to be a witness for the people that God expects their repentance and faithfulness.

Like many Old Testament readings, these portray God by way of human analogy because that is the only context we have available to us. Therefore, the temptation when reading these passages might be to think of God solely in human terms playing tit-for-tat with us when we stray from the Law. But God is infinitely greater than any capacity we, or the scripture writers, have to describe Divinity.

The narrative provided by this prophetic book is not one of comfort; its merciless accusations and its violent imagery do not make it an easy scroll to swallow (Ezek 2:8–3:3). While much of Ezekiel’s language, imagery, and reasoning will appear foreign to modern readers, his narrative would have been clearly intelligible to his contemporaries—even though presumably it would have been hard to accept. The exile, according to this narrative, is both inevitable and deserved; it is portrayed as God’s judgement for the constant and complete failure of God’s people.

At the same time, it is not God’s last word. While resisting both optimism and despair, Ezekiel offers a narrative that sheds light on his present and arrives at an original, if peculiar, imagination of hope, founded solely on theological conviction.

Janina M. Hiebel – Hope in Exile: In Conversation with Ezekiel

So then, what might we take from today’s dark readings? For me, it is this:

God is always Light.
It is we who get caught in darkness.

God does speak to us in our circumstances, as God did to Ezekiel and Moses. By faithful prayer and sincere desire, we can deepen in our love and understanding of God through every experience of our lives, even the painful ones. When we live with that kind of faith and hope, our lives witness to God’s fidelity and love.

Poetry: two offerings today

Motto – Bertold Brecht

In the dark times 
Will there also be singing? 
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.

Light – Alice Jones

The morning when I first notice
the leaves starting to color,
early orange, and back-lit,
I think how rapture doesn't
vanish, merely fades into
the background, waits for those
moment between moments.

I think this and the door pens,
the street takes on its glistening
look, Bay fog lifting, patches of sun
on sycamore -- yellow sea.
I am in again, and swimming.

Music: Lavender Shadows – Michael Hoppé

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