Pontiff Warns of Temptation to Make God "Comprehensible"

Says Moses’ Prayer Shows True Divine Nature

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says there is a constant temptation in the spiritual life: to try to construct a «comprehensible god» that corresponds to one’s own plans and projects.

The Pope made this reflection today as he continued with his general audience catecheses on prayer. Today, he turned to Moses, saying he «carried out his role as mediator between God and Israel … I would say especially, by praying.»

The Pontiff looked at at Moses’ prayer, as narrated in Exodus 32.

This chapter relates how Moses had gone up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments when the Chosen People below make their search for a «comprehensible god» who conforms to their plans, and ask Aaron to build the golden calf.

God reveals to Moses what the people are doing and sends him back down the mountain.

«Now therefore let me alone,» he tells Moses, «that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them: but of you I will make a great nation.»

In recounting Moses’ response, Benedict XVI paralleled it with his teaching on Abraham from two weeks ago.

«In reality,» the Pope explained, «this ‘let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot’ is said precisely so that Moses might intervene and ask him not to do it, thereby revealing that God’s desire is always to save. As with the two cities in the time of Abraham, punishment and destruction, in which the wrath of God is expressed as the rejection of evil, point to the gravity of the sin committed; at the same time, the intercessor’s request is meant to manifest the Lord’s will to forgive.

«This is the salvation of God, which involves mercy but together with it also exposes the truth of the sin, of the evil that is present, so that the sinner, aware of and rejecting his own sin, can allow himself to be forgiven and transformed by God.»

Benedict XVI observed how «Moses’ prayer is wholly centered on the Lord’s fidelity and grace.»

The Pope recounted how Moses reminds God that he cannot allow the work of salvation to be left unfinished: «[God] is the good Lord who saves, the guarantor of life, he is the God of mercy and forgiveness, of liberation from sin which kills. … If his elect were to perish, even if they are guilty, he might appear incapable of conquering sin. And this is unacceptable.»

«Moses had a concrete experience of the God of salvation; he was sent as a mediator of divine liberation, and now, with his prayer, he voices a twofold concern — concern for the fate of his people, but alongside this, concern for the honor that is owed to the Lord, for the truth of his name,» the Holy Father reflected. «The intercessor, in fact, wants the people of Israel to be saved, because they are the flock that has been entrusted to him, but also because, in that salvation, the true reality of God is manifested. Love of the brothers and love of God interpenetrate in intercessory prayer; they are inseparable. Moses, the intercessor, is a man stretched between two loves, which in prayer overlap into but one desire for good.»


When Moses will return again to the mountain after he has destroyed the golden calf, he tells the Lord, «But now, if thou wilt forgive their sin — and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.»

The Bishop of Rome noted how the fathers of the Church saw here a prefiguring of Christ, who «with his pierced heart,» is, in fact, «blotted out.» «His intercession is not only solidarity, but identification with us; he carries us all in his body. And in this way his whole existence as man and as Son is a cry to the heart of God, it is forgiveness, but a forgiveness that transforms and renews.»

«I think we should meditate upon this reality,» the Pope invited. «Christ stands before the face of God and prays for me. His prayer on the cross is contemporaneous with all men, contemporaneous with me: He prays for me, he suffered and suffers for me, he identified himself with me by taking on our human body and soul. And he invites us to enter into his identity, making ourselves one body, one spirit with him, because from the heights of the cross he brought not new laws, tablets of stone, but rather he brought himself, his body and his blood, as the new covenant. He thereby makes us one blood with him, one body with him, identified with him.»

The Holy Father reflected that Christ «invites us to enter into this identification, to be united with him in our desire to be one body, one spirit with him. Let us pray to the Lord that this identification may transform us, may renew us, since forgiveness is renewal — it is transformation.»

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-32730?l=english

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