The last article described the first time Moses ascended Mount Sinai for 40 days, when he received the law and a vision of the glory of God.
This article will take lessons from his second, and more poignant, ascent up the mountain, when he asked the Lord to forgive His people. The first ascent up Mount Sinai was glorious, at least until Moses came down from the mountain. At that point he discovered that the people had returned to paganism, made a golden calf, and worshipped it, an image of the worship of gold that has afflicted civilizations throughout history. Moses sharply rebuked the people and destroyed the golden calf.
But, when God threatened to destroy the Chosen People and make of Moses a new nation, Moses went up the mountain a second time for 40 days of prayer and supplication, asking God to forgive His people. God then spared the people, although warning that this sin would be a burden on their future. See Ex. 32:1-35; Duet. 9:7 – 10:10.
In handing on the guidance from God, in opposing idolatry, and in his sacrifices and prayer of reparation, Moses was the model of true patriotism. As the great Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton wrote in a chapter entitled “The Flag of the World” of his 1908 classic Orthodoxy, there are two vices opposed to true patriotism, both of which involve indifference.
One error is involves condemning what is wrong with one’s homeland without any real love for it, and perhaps even with a condescending delight. The other error is to support whatever the nation does, without concern for right or wrong. Real patriotism involves desiring that one’s nation succeed, and deserve to succeed, that one’s nation be both good and great.
Likewise, Christian charity calls for this love for all people. And, when we offer prayers, sacrifices and good deeds, particularly during Lent, we are not only making up for our own sins, but also repairing damage in the world around us.
Through the sacraments, our prayers and repentance receive the full power of Jesus Christ, a power that even Moses did not yet have. As Moses and the prophets were the greatest patriots of Israel, always calling that nation to the glory that God wished for it, so Christians have ever called their nations to their unique place in the kingdom of God. And the faithful can, by our prayers, sacrifices and good deeds, make of this land truly “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”