Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.’
So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently.
As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
As a liturgical musician, I cannot recall a single funeral Mass that did not include the beloved Michael Joncas classic, “On Eagles’ Wings.” Perhaps it’s the song’s wide range…its striking imagery…its emotional breadth…or simply people’s familiarity with it. Something about Joncas’ hymn, based in part on today’s passage from Exodus, soothes people’s grieving souls.
As we celebrate Pentecost, we are reminded of this earlier scene from God’s love story with God’s people. Calling the people to covenantal relationship, God tells them who they are and who they are called to be: born on eagles’ wings and brought to Godself, treasured, priestly, and holy. Amid this pandemic, many of us have ached for such assurance of God’s protection and ongoing presence with us.
Though likely not in lighting, clouds, and trumpet blasts, where, when, and with whom have I felt God’s comforting embrace? How can I invite God into my grief?
And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of his hand.
—Refrain from On Eagles Wings by Michael Joncas, © 1979, 1991 by New Dawn MusicPlease share the Good Word with your friends!