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Qur’an 28: The Stories

Readings

Entrance Antiphon:

And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:4

A Reading, from the Book of Exodus:

Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?”

Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”

So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!” When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.

When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “How is it that you have come so soon today?”

And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock.”

So he said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.”

Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”
Exodus 2:11-21

A Psalm, from the Psalms:

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalms 32:1-5

A reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews:

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.
Hebrews 11:23-29

Alleluia, Alleluia

After these events, King Ahhashverosh promoted Haman, son of Hamdatha the Agagite, son of Stench, son of Robbery, son of Pilate, son of Lysius, son of Flous, son of Fadus, son of Flaccus, son of Antipater, son of Herod, son of Refuse, son of Decay, son of Parmashta, son of Vajastaha, son of Agag, son of the Red, son of Amalek, son of the concubine of Eliphaz, the eldest son of Esau.
Second Targum of Esther VIII

Alleluia, Alleluia

A reading, from the Holy Gospel According to John:

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
John 4:7-15

Communion Antiphon:

They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!
Revelation 15:3

A Qur’anic Homily

The Sinners

This is a story of three sinners.

We relate to you truly some of the account of Moses and Pharaoh for a people who have faith. Pharaoh indeed tyrannized over the land, reducing its people to factions, abasing one group of them, slaughtering their sons and sparing their women. Indeed, He was one of the agents of corruption.
Qur’an 28:3-4

Pharaoh’s lackey, Haman — in scriptures the antagonist of Esther, but here used as an archetypal toady:

And we desired to show favor to those who were oppressed in the land, and to make them leaders and to make them the heirs, and to establish them in the land and to show Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts from them that of which they were apprehensive.
Qur’an 28:5-6

And Pharaoh’s servant, Moses:

He entered the city at a time when its people were not likely to take notice. He found there two men fighting, this one from among his followers and that one from his enemies. The one who was from his followers sought his help against him who was from his enemies. So Moses hit him with his fist, whereupon he expired.

He said, “This is of Satan’s doing. He is indeed clearly a misleading enemy.”
Qur’an 28:15

The difference is not their sins. The difference is repentance:

[Moses] said, “My Lord! I have wronged myself. Forgive me!”

So He forgave him.

Indeed, He is the All-forgiving, the All-merciful.

He said, “My Lord! As You have blessed me, I will never be a supporter of the guilty!”
Qur’an 28:16-17

Oppression

God forgives those who seek forgiveness. Men often are not so gracious:

He rose at down in the city, fearful and vigilant, when, lo, the one who had sought his help the day before, shouted for help.

Moses said to him, “You are indeed clearly perverse!”

But when he wanted to strike him who was an enemy of both of them, he said, “Moses, do you want to kill me, just like the one you killed yesterday? You only want to be a tyrant in this land, and you do not desire to be the one who sets things right.”
Qur’an 28:18-19

When men are not aligned with God, their actions are oppression. For instance, Moses’ sins were forgiven him when he repented with perfect contrition, but the separation this sin caused still harmed him:

And we desired to show favor to those who were oppressed in the land, and to make them leaders and to make them the heirs, and to establish them in the land and to show Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts from them that of which they were apprehensive.
Qur’an 28:5-6

Again, Moses is an example to us. He was not like a Gnostic, who viewed the formulaic asking for forgiveness as a secret key. Rather, Moses persisted in his dialog with God. When regretful, he asked for forgiveness — and received it. When scared, he asked for the Lord’s guidance — and received it.

So he left the city, fearful and vigilant. He said, “my Lord! Deliver me from the wrongdoing lot.” And when he turned to face toward Midian, he said, “Maybe my Lord will show me the right way.”
Qur’an 28:21-22

The ability to receive guidance, according to the Qur’anic author, requires a Marian submission of the heart. Moses probably wasn’t looking for God specifically in the burning bush. Like the Samaritan woman by the well he may have had more practical interests in seeing a new method of keeping a hearth warm. But that was not God’s desire for how things would unfold:

So when Moses completed the term and set out with his family, he descried a fire on the side of the mountain. He said to his family, “Wait! Indeed, I descry a fire! Maybe I will bring you some news from it, or a brand of fire so that you may warm yourselves.”

When he approached it, he was called from the right bank of the valley in that blessed spot from the Tree. “Moses! Indeed, I am God, the Lord of All the Worlds!”
Qur’an 28:29-30

Then as we all know God commanded Moses to go back to Pharaoh. Moses understood his (now-forgiven) sin, understood the oppression he would face from men who are not as gracious for God, and asked for assistance. God mediated his existence through Moses’s brother, Aaron:

He said, “My Lord! I have killed one of their men, so I fear they will kill me. Aaron, my brother — he is more eloquent than me in speech. So send him with me as a helper to confirm me, for I fear that they will impugn me.”

He said, “We will strengthen your arm by means of your brother, and invest both of you with such authority that they will not touch you. With the help of Our signs, you two and those who follow the two of you shall be the victors.”
Qur’an 28:33-35

The Oppressed and the Oppressors

Moses repented, had a Marian heart, and responded to the universal call to prophecy.

In response the Pharaoh and his toady Haman — (an amalgam of the worst people in the Hebrew Bible) respond by repeating the error of Babel, building a tower to see God directly and in their own power! Their concern was not righteousness, but making a name for themselves:

Pharaoh said, “O elite! I do not know of any god that you may have besides me. Haman, light for me a fire over clay, and build me a tower so that I may take a look at Moses’s god, and indeed I consider him to be a liar!”
Qur’an 28:38

But as both C.S. Lewis and Hans urs von Balthasar observed, the gates of hell are locked from the inside. To all who do not say “Thy will be done,” God will say, “thy will be done.” If they want fire, they will get fire.

We made them leaders who invite to the Fire, and on the Day of Resurrection they will not receive any help. We made a curse pursue them in this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be among the disfigured.”
Qur’an 28:41

Your responsibility is not the conversion of hearts, according to the Qur’anic author — only God can do that. Bring the book of your life — your sign pointing to God — to them. And trust God with the rest.

Say, “If you are truthful, bring some Book from God better in guidance than both of them so that I may follow it.”

Then, if they do not respond to you, know that they only follow their desires, and who is more astray than him who follows his desires without any guidance from God? Indeed, does not not guide the wrongdoing lot.
Qur’an 28:49-50

The Greatness of God

God has given you the night and the day, light and water. He is the source of all things:

Say, “Tell me, if God were to make the night perpetual for you until the Day of Resurrection, what god other than God can bring you light?

Then, will you not listen?”

Say, “Tell me, if God were to make the day perpetual for you until the Day of Resurrection, what god other than God can bring you night wherein you can rest?

Will you not see?”

He has made for you the night and day out of His mercy, so that you may rest therein and that you may seek His bounty and so that you may give thanks.
Qur’an 28:71-73

God rewards virtue and punishes vice. He is gracious to the penitent and harsh to the obstinate:

Whoever brings virtue shall receive better than it, but whoever brings vice — those who commit misdeeds shall not be requited except for what they used to do.

Indeed, He who has revealed to you the Lectionary will surely restore you to the place of return.

Say, “My Lord knows best him who brings guidance and him who is in plain error.”
Qur’an 28:84-85

The Book given to Moses, the signs He was able to share, have its focus the benefit of others. He did not fret over the success or failure of his call to prophecy, but obeyed God in manifesting the prophecy:

Certainly We gave Moses the Book, after We had destroyed the former generations, as eye-openers and mercy for mankind, so that they may take admonition.
Qur’an 28:43

You may not have expected to be an imitation of a new Moses. But life is full of surprises. Obey God, Worship Him, and you will see His face, face-to-face, like a friend:

You did not except that the Book would be delivered to you, but it was a mercy from your Lord. So do not be ever an advocate of the faithless. DO not ever let them bar you from God’s signs after they have been sent down to you. Invite to your Lord and never be one of the polytheists. And do not invoke another god besides God; there is no god except Him. Everything is to perish except His Face. All judgment belongs to Him and to Him you will be brought back.
Qur’an 28:86-88

Conclusion

The difference between the virtuous and the vicious is that the virtuous repent of their sins, pray to God, and are open to His miracles. You will not expect the need to repent, the need to pray, or the need to be open, but doing these things as you need them is what God desires.

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