27Jul 27 July, Wednesday of Week 17

Exod 34:29ff. Because of his special closeness to God on Mount Sinai, Moses’ face was shining with light; so when not conversing with God, he hid his face with a a veil.

Matt 13:44ff. The power of radical choice – we should be ready to sell all for the sake of the buried treasure and for the priceless pearl.

Ready for Radical Choices?

At crucial transitions in our life, and certainly at the hour of death, we are obliged to exchange all our possessions for the pearl of great price. Then the challenge of Joshua to the Israelites in the drama of covenant renewal at Shechem is leveled at ourselves: Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him completely. If you do not wish to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve… As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Josh 24:14-15).

While today’s gospel clearly stipulates this condition of thorough consecration, the other reading from Exodus reflects a dramatic moment in this pure and loyal service of the Lord. Moses is the rugged warrior towards the end of a life of many struggles. After such frequent conversation with the Lord, Moses already has a foretaste of heaven so that “the skin of his face has become radiant.” The peace and strength, compassion and wisdom of God shone from the eyes and countenance of this “man of God.”

Such radiance was too much for the Israelites. They backed away so that Moses had to call to them from a distance and even began to wear a veil over his face. Most of us do not want God too close as this, one who continually calls us to peace and forgiveness with our neighbour, to strength and fidelity with moral principles, to compassion towards those who harm us, day by day. Yet, when important decisions were pending, the people were anxious for God’s guidance. We too are grateful for the saintly people who force us to put our life and its many demands into a healthy perspective wherein we are led to esteem most of all this “one really valuable pearl.”

There comes a time, in seeking this inestimable pearl, when the struggle is not against something obviously evil or immoral, but is caused by the betrayal of friends or feeling abandoned even by God. In those circumstances we are not surrounded by blinding light, like Moses, but plunged into darkness like the prophet Jeremiah, centuries later.

First Reading: Exodus 34:29-35

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Gospel: Matthew 13:44-46

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.