As he continues to reflect upon praying, to which he has dedicated his Wednesday addresses, the pope told the 30,000 people in St Peter’s Square that Modes was a “man of prayer”.
“The great prophet and leader at the time of the Exodus played the role of mediator between God and Israel. In so doing, he brought God’s words and commands to his people, and led them to the freedom of the Promised Land. He taught the Israelites how to live by obeying and trusting God during their long permanence in the desert, but he especially, I would say, taught them how to pray.”
He prayed for pharaoh when God tried to convert Egyptians’ heart with plagues. He called for his sister to be healed. He prayed when the fire was wiping out the camp. “He saw God and spoke to Him face to face like speaking to a friend.”
Benedict XVI focused especially on the moment when Moses was on Mount Sinai, waiting to receive the Law, whilst his people were calling on Aaron to make a gold calf. “Tired of a journey with an invisible God, now that Moses the mediator had disappeared, the people called for a tangible and touchable sign of the Lord, and found in the golden calf made by Aaron, a God that was accessible, movable and within man’s scope. This is a constant temptation on the path of faith, whereby we try to avoid the divine mystery by building a God that we can understand, one who corresponds to our own designs and plans.”
For this reason, God warned Moses what was happening. “He told him, ‘Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.’ As he did with Abraham in relation to Sodom and Gomorrah, here too God told Moses what he planned to do, as if he could not act without his approval.” In reality, by saying, “Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up,” God wanted Moses to act and ask him not to do it, “thus showing that God always wants salvation. As in the case of the two temple cities in Abraham’s times, punishment and destruction, which embody God’s wrath and refusal of evil, show just how serious sin is. At the same time, Moses’ intercession is a sign that the Lord wants to forgive. This is God’s salvation, which implies mercy, but also constitutes an attack against the truth of sin”. Hence, “the sinner, having acknowledged and rejected his own evil, can allow himself to be forgiven” by God.
“Within the corrupt reality of the sinning man, the intercessory prayer operationalises divine mercy, which finds its voice in the supplication of the praying person, and becomes present through him wherever there is need for salvation.”
When, after the destruction of the golden calf, Moses returned to the mountain to ask once more for Israel’s salvation, he told the Lord, “If you will not, then strike me out of the book that you have written.”
“Through prayers, as he desires God’s desire, the interceding person understands the Lord and his mercy more deeply; he becomes capable of the sort of love that includes totally giving oneself.”
In this image, the Fathers of the Church “saw in the Moses standing on the top of the mountain, face to face with God, interceding on behalf of his people, offering himself, foreshadowing Christ who, from high on the Cross truly stood before God, not only as friend but also as son, and became sin, thus removing our sins to save us.”
“I think,” the pope said, “that we must reflect upon this reality. Christ stood before the face of God and prayed for me. He suffered and suffers for me. He identified himself with me by taking our body, human soul, and invited us to enter in this identity, by making a single body and spirit with him.”