CCC 205 God calls Moses from the midst of a bush that burns without being consumed: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”1 God is the God of the fathers, the One who had called and guided the patriarchs in their wanderings. He is the faithful and compassionate God who remembers them and his promises; he comes to free their descendants from slavery. He is the God who, from beyond space and time, can do this and wills to do it, the God who will put his almighty power to work for this plan.
“I Am who I Am”
Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’... this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”2
CCC 207 By revealing his name God at the same time reveals his faithfulness which is from everlasting to everlasting, valid for the past (“I am the God of your father”), as for the future (“I will be with you”).3 God, who reveals his name as “I AM”, reveals himself as the God who is always there, present to his people in order to save them.
CCC 208 Faced with God’s fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face in the presence of God’s holiness.4 Before the glory of the thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: “Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.”5 Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”6 But because God is holy, he can forgive the man who realizes that he is a sinner before him: “I will not execute my fierce anger. .. for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.”7 The apostle John says likewise: “We shall. .. reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”8
CCC 446 In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God revealed himself to Moses,9 is rendered as Kyrios, “Lord”. From then on, “Lord” becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel’s God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the title “Lord” both for the Father and – what is new – for Jesus, who is thereby recognized as God Himself.10
CCC 1867 The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: the blood of Abel,11 the sin of the Sodomites,12 the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt,13 the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan,14 injustice to the wage earner.15
CCC 2575 Here again the initiative is God’s. From the midst of the burning bush he calls Moses.16 This event will remain one of the primordial images of prayer in the spiritual tradition of Jews and Christians alike. When “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” calls Moses to be his servant, it is because he is the living God who wants men to live. God reveals himself in order to save them, though he does not do this alone or despite them: he calls Moses to be his messenger, an associate in his compassion, his work of salvation. There is something of a divine plea in this mission, and only after long debate does Moses attune his own will to that of the Savior God. But in the dialogue in which God confides in him, Moses also learns how to pray: he balks, makes excuses, above all questions: and it is in response to his question that the Lord confides his ineffable name, which will be revealed through his mighty deeds.
CCC 2666 But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: “Jesus,” “YHWH saves.”17 The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.18
CCC 2777 In the Roman liturgy, the Eucharistic assembly is invited to pray to our heavenly Father with filial boldness; the Eastern liturgies develop and use similar expressions: “dare in all confidence,” “make us worthy of. .. ” From the burning bush Moses heard a voice saying to him, “Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”19 Only Jesus could cross that threshold of the divine holiness, for “when he had made purification for sins,” he brought us into the Father’s presence: “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”20
Our awareness of our status as slaves would make us sink into the ground and our earthly condition would dissolve into dust, if the authority of our Father himself and the Spirit of his Son had not impelled us to this cry. .. ‘Abba, Father!’. .. When would a mortal dare call God ‘Father,’ if man’s innermost being were not animated by power from on high?21
CCC 2810 In the promise to Abraham and the oath that accompanied it,22 God commits himself but without disclosing his name. He begins to reveal it to Moses and makes it known clearly before the eyes of the whole people when he saves them from the Egyptians: “he has triumphed gloriously.”23 From the covenant of Sinai onwards, this people is “his own” and it is to be a “holy (or ”consecrated“: the same word is used for both in Hebrew) nation,”24 because the name of God dwells in it.
1 EX 3:6.
2 EX 3:13-15.
3 EX 3:6, 12.
4 Cf. EX 3:5-6.
5 Is 6:5.
6 Lk 5:8.
7 Hos 11:9.
8 I Jn 3:19-20.
9 Cf. Ex 3:14.
10 Cf. I Cor 2:8.
11 Cf. Gen 4:10.
12 Cf. Gen 18:20; 19:13.
13 Cf. Ex 3:7-10.
14 Cf. Ex 20:20-22.
15 Cf. Deut 24:14-15; Jas 5:4.
16 Ex 3:1-10.
17 Cf. Ex 3:14; 33: 19-23; Mt 1:21.
18 Rom 10:13; Acts 2:21; 3:15-16; Gal 2:20.
19 Ex 3:5.
20 Heb 1:3; 2:13.
21 St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 71, 3: PL 52, 401 CD; cf. Gal 4:6.
22 Cf. Heb 6:13.
23 Ex 15:1 cf. 3:14.
24 Cf. Ex 19:5-6.