Forty Years to the Burning Bush

18 July 2007 Wednesday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time
Exodus 3, 1-6, 9-12 The Burning Bush

Forty-years ago, Moses fled from Egypt like a fugitive running for his life. He was leaving a comfortable life with the protection of no less than the Pharaoh. He was leaving behind an education of hieroglyphics and Egyptian culture. He was saying goodbye to a palace and a place of recognition. He was like a Prince William or a Prince Harry. Forty-years ago, he was ending a good life for life of obscurity in a deserted place called Midian. He would eventually marry Ziphora, a daughter of Jethro a shepherd. For forty-years God was silent.

Then the first reading opens to this one day among all other days. An ordinary day at an ordinary time when God would suddenly break into his forty years of silence. In an ordinary time, God comes suddenly and without warning. No special signs. No alerts or warning sounds for God’s coming. Perhaps, the night before, Moses would look at his flock and wondered about his life forty-years ago. He might have been saying to himself, “If I didn’t slay the Egyptian, I would have been a high ranking official in Egypt. People — not sheep — would follow my voice.”

The forty years of silence for Moses would have molded him to become ready for the enormous task that the Lord has ordained him to do. Maybe the forty years gave him ample time to reflect on his actions, and perhaps, repent from it. Maybe the forty years made Moses heart more inclined towards being a servant. Imagine yourself a prince. It would be more likely that you will be arrogant and proud, accustomed to ordering people around. You will feel entitled. This is far from the stance of a servant, whose heart is only to do his master’s command. Midian would have taught Moses what shepherding means: from caring for a flock of sheep to a flock of people. Or maybe the forty years of hardship made Moses strong and firm; things he would need in order to lead a whole nation out of Egypt.

What is the point in this reflection of Moses? It means that leadership is not a right, but a responsibility. A leader should undergo a desert experience: the time to reflect on his personal strengths and limitations, life and organizational direction, etc. It means that a leader ought to undergo long years of preparation before he takes the stand or the corner office. Think of the many years you spent studying, preparing for what you want to be. We spend more than half of our lives preparing, in fact, the whole of our lives are a preparation for that big event as eternal life.

For those who are in the middle of studies or training, and are asking the question, “How long? Why very long?” Then this is for you. The answer is clear: such is life! We become great doctors because we prepared ourselves well. We become great lawyers because we burned the midnight oil. We become great leaders because we spent years training to be one. But it is not just about skills. In the process we train our heart.

So, we will be prepared for our burning bush experience; the experience when God suddenly breaks into our ordinary lives and makes clear what He wants us to be. It may be the time when we pass the board or bar exams. It may be the time when someone asks, “Will you marry me?” It may be the time when we are finally asked to make a decision to pronounce perpetual vows. It can be anything at anytime, when all of our lives are placed into perspective. At that time, it is expedient that our hearts be on fire, as a burning bush. When we are so aflame, like falling crazily in love, we can do anything.

To do anything is possible. The burning bush had God in it. Put all of your ‘forty years’ experience, a heart aflame with God: you can lead a whole nation to salvation.

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