Complacency is the enemy of any true relationship. As soon as we take for granted the friendship of another, ceasing to rejoice in a love that has been so freely given, the capacity for love begins to die within us. We become increasingly insensitive to those around us and to what we ourselves are becoming. Which of us can look at our many relationships with family and valued friends and not confess that at times we have taken them for granted?
Lent is a time for self-discernment, a time to consider the love of God offered in our lives and the manner of our response. Do we take faith, our response to God’s love, for granted?
In many ways the people of Israel looked upon the encounter with Moses at the burning bush as the beginning of their graced relationship with God. At the time they were slaves in a foreign land, powerless against the emptiness and oppression that threatened their very existence. Subsequent generations would see their enslavement as a reflection of their own sin crying out for freedom and redemption.
At the burning bush, the God of Israel took to himself the suffering of an abandoned people. “I have seen the miserable state of my people. I am well aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land to a land broad and rich, a land where milk and honey flow.”
The revelation of the divine name to Moses, “I Am who I Am”, enigmatic though it appears, was of the profoundest significance. To the ancient world a God who revealed his name entrusted himself to those who received and venerated his name. Just as Moses had venerated the presence of God by the removal of his shoes at the burning bush, so the children of Israel would venerate God’s presence signified by his name, never presuming to take that holy name on their lips.
The God of Israel remained true to his promise. The children of Israel were delivered from bondage, and, after 40 years, entered the Promised Land. They were indeed a chosen people, but the joy of deliverance soon became complacency. Complacency became indifference, and, ultimately, the hardness of heart that was insensitive to God’s presence.
During Lent we are reminded that Christ is our Exodus, our deliverance from the enslavement of sin. Do we, in prayer, hear and reverence his presence, responding as did Moses at the burning bush?
St Paul illustrated this question through Israel’s subsequent history. Although they had been set free and led through the waters of the sea, although they had been fed in the wilderness, they preferred the complacency of indifference. “In spite of this, most of them failed to please God and their corpses littered the desert. All this happened to them as a warning.”
In Christ we have been delivered from sin, and, through the waters of baptism, have come to share in his Resurrection.
We have been sustained on the journey, not with Manna, but with Christ, the Bread of life.
Let us heed the words of the Lord, lest we become complacent: “I tell you, unless you repent you shall all perish as they did.”