Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 2, 2017 — The Kingdom of Heaven is Like an Unexpected Treasure — Are We “Radiating The Presence of God”?

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 403

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Reading 1 EX 34:29-35

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands,
he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant
while he conversed with the LORD.
When Aaron, then, and the other children of Israel saw Moses
and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become,
they were afraid to come near him.
Only after Moses called to them did Aaron
and all the rulers of the community come back to him.
Moses then spoke to them.
Later on, all the children of Israel came up to him,
and he enjoined on them all that the LORD
had told him on Mount Sinai.
When he finished speaking with them,
he put a veil over his face.
Whenever Moses entered the presence of the LORD to converse with him,
he removed the veil until he came out again.
On coming out, he would tell the children of Israel
all that had been commanded.
Then the children of Israel would see
that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant;
so he would again put the veil over his face
until he went in to converse with the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm PS 99:5, 6, 7, 9

R. (see 9c) Holy is the Lord our God.
Extol the LORD, our God,
and worship at his footstool;
holy is he!
R. Holy is the Lord our God.
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
and Samuel, among those who called upon his name;
they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
R. Holy is the Lord our God.
From the pillar of cloud he spoke to them;
they heard his decrees and the law he gave them.
R. Holy is the Lord our God.
Extol the LORD, our God,
and worship at his holy mountain;
for holy is the LORD, our God.
R. Holy is the Lord our God.

AlleluiaJN 15:15B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

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Reflection Exodus 34:29-35
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Moses’ countenance glows throughout this scene of covenant renewal, following the sin of the golden calf in Exodus 32.

The Israelites stand in awe of God’s glory reflected in Moses’ incandescent face as he descends from Sinai bearing a new set of tablets inscribed with the “ten words” or commandments of the covenant (Exodus 34:10-28, here a ritual ten commandments, in contrast to the better-known versions in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

Moses’ shining face embodies God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to Israel, despite the Israelites’ confused and rebellious worship of the image of a calf they proclaim as “the gods who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:5). A traditional declaration earlier in Exodus 34 emphasizes that covenant renewal is in keeping with God’s essential character:

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7).1

The light of divine presence transforms Moses’ appearance on an ongoing basis, whenever he emerges from the tent of meeting after speaking with God “face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:7-11; cf., Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10). Moses’ dazzling face confirms that his plea for God’s presence among the Israelites as they leave Sinai (Exodus 34:9) has been answered, even before the tabernacle is built and filled with glory (Exodus 40:34-38).

On Transfiguration Sunday, we may proclaim with confidence the gracious character of God, who offers a second chance by renewing the covenant and remaining present among the community, as seen first in the face of Moses and then in the face of Christ.

Within the larger narrative context in which the prophet’s absence while mediating the covenant raises doubts concerning his leadership, Moses’ radiant visage affirms his authority as God’s representative. Transformed unconsciously through his mountaintop encounter with God for forty days and nights, Moses brings and even embodies divine revelation concerning the way of life within a covenant relationship with God.

Moses himself is denied a vision of God’s face when he requests to see the divine glory but is granted only a backwards glimpse from a protective cleft (Exodus 33:18-23). By contrast, the Israelites are granted an unexpected and overwhelming vision of Moses’ shining face as it reflects the divine glory.

The curious verb “shone” describing Moses’ skin (Exodus 34:29) is not found elsewhere in the Bible. Since it resembles the Hebrew word for an animal’s “horn,” Jerome in the Vulgate posits that Moses sprouted horns, an interpretive tradition followed by artists such as Michelangelo and Chagall. This image creates an uneasy parallel with the calf fashioned by Aaron in his brother’s absence.

Since elsewhere in the Bible light shines from God’s face as a source of blessing and peace,2 the light shining from Moses’ face creates a more compelling parallel between the deity and his human spokesperson. A close correspondence between the two emerges elsewhere as well, as both God and Moses are portrayed as bringing up Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 20:2; 32:1, 7) and writing upon the stone tablets (Exodus 31:18; 34:1, 27-28).

Today, we might reflect upon how God’s light shines through the actions and lives of leaders and ordinary people of faith, to make God’s transforming presence known in the congregation and wider community.

Given the importance of Moses’ shining visage, the purpose of the “veil” is unclear. The Hebrew word only appears only here, and denotes some sort of mask, hood, or other type of face covering. Since the Israelites responded to Moses’ appearance with fear and reluctance to approach (Exodus 34:29), the veil may have assured and protected them. Even the reflected radiance of God’s presence might be unbearable on a sustained basis, especially to a people suffering from the trauma of sin and its consequences.

Alternatively, the veil may limit Moses’ authority to a mediating role, so that when not speaking to God or to the people on God’s behalf, he conceals his extraordinary appearance as a form of self-effacement. Elsewhere, the Bible notes that Moses was a very humble man (Numbers 12:3).

The periodic veiling of Moses’ face also hints at the Israelites’ fluctuating experience of divine availability and absence. Just as Moses’ face is alternately exposed or cloaked, God’s presence may be at times perceptible or mysteriously hidden. Whatever the case, Paul’s assertion in his metaphorical appropriation that Moses manipulated the veil to deceive the Israelites (2 Cor 3:13) should not be accepted uncritically.

We might develop the imagery of the “veil” to address moments when God’s purpose is unclear, even though we are assured of God’s continued presence in our lives and world.

Fiery imagery for God’s active presence illumines the book of Exodus, as in the burning bush (Exodus 3:3), the LORD’s descent on Mt. Sinai in fire (19:18), and the pillar of cloud and fire accompanying Israel in the wilderness (13:24) and settling on the tabernacle (34:34-38).

The brightness of Moses’ face in Exodus 34:29-35 provides another instance of this passionate imagery and points to the brilliance of God’s own face as the source of blessing and peace, beautifully expressed in the Priestly Blessing: “May the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Consider closing the sermon with the Priestly Blessing to invoke the grace, peace, and blessing of God’s shining face upon the congregation.


1cf., Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Jeremiah 32:18; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3.

2Psalm 4:6; 67:1; 80:3; 119:135; Numbers 6:24-26

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1576

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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02 AUGUST, 2017, Wednesday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time

RADIATING THE PRESENCE OF GOD


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 34:29-35Ps 98:5-7,9Mt 13:44-46  ]

In the first reading, we read how the skin on Moses’ face was so “radiant after speaking with the Lord”, so much so “that they would not venture near him.”   Indeed, Moses must have been so transformed in likeness to God that the sons of Israel were unsure whether it was safe to approach Moses. In his radiance, the people could see the glory of God in Moses.  Hence, in the presence of God, one is filled with awe and reverence.

Not only did Moses radiate the presence of God but he also brought the Word of God.  We are told that when he came down from the mountain, he “had the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands” and “all the sons of Israel came closer, and he passed on to them all the orders that the Lord had given him on the mountain of Sinai.”  This became the pattern of his relationship with God and his people. He became the mediator. Earlier on, Moses played the role of intercessor, asking God for pardon for the sins of his people.  But beyond an intercessory role, Moses was the prophet that brought the Word of God to his people.  “Whenever he went into the Lord’s presence to speak with him, Moses would remove the veil until he come out again.  And when he came out, he would tell the sons of Israel what he had been ordered to pass on to them, and the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses radiant.  Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he returned to speak with the Lord.”

What was the secret of Moses in fulfilling his role as the mediator of God, radiating His presence and giving His word to the people?  Clearly, it was because of Moses’ intimacy with the Lord.  God spoke to “Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”  (Ex 33:11)  The Lord said to Moses, “I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.”  (Ex 33:12)   Indeed, it was because of Moses’ closeness with the Lord that he was able to share His heart and His mind.  He was one with God in His love for the people.  He felt for his people as God felt for them.  Only a man who knows God can reveal His thoughts and His heart to the people.  It was at the mountain that God spoke to Moses and revealed His thoughts in the commandments.

Indeed, this was said of Jesus as well.  “No one has ever seen God; only the Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”  (Jn 1:18)  In His last testament, Jesus said, “O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  (Jn 17:25f)  Truly, Jesus Himself said “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Mt 11:27)  Other than Moses, no one has seen God and known God as Jesus did.

The secret of Jesus’ intimacy with His Father was the same as that of Moses.  He would spend time in prayer with His Father.  After a long day’s ministry, He would retire in prayer.  “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”  (Mt 14:23)  “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.”  (Mk 1:35)  And before important decisions, He would pray.  “In these days he went out into the hills to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.”  (Lk 6:12f)   Jesus knew that He must first receive the love from His Father and hear from Him before He could be transformed in love and be able to transmit all that He heard from His Father to us.  Jesus was fully aware that He had come to reveal His love for us.  All that He said and did were to reveal the Father’s love and mercy.

In this sense, Moses and the Lord shared the experience of finding the greatest treasure in life, which is intimacy with the Father.  It is the love of the Father that kept them focused on their mission.  Both parables of the hidden treasure and the fine pearls speak of this great discovery.  If only we know the treasure we have, then we too would be elated.  A person who finds such a treasure will have a radical transformation and make radical decisions.  Moses left everything for God to deliver His people because He found the treasure at the Burning Bush.  There Moses found God as the compassionate and merciful one.  Jesus at His baptism also experienced the overwhelming love of His Father which was the beginning of His mission.  If we want to commit ourselves to the service of God, we too must find the treasure of our life, which is to be with God, sharing in His love and in His life.  This was the same experience of St Paul when he wrote, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor 4:6f)

Secondly, the parables of the hidden treasure and fine pearl tell us that when we find such a treasure, we must give up everything to buy it.  Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.”   There is a price to be paid for what we desire.  We must give all our heart to what we value in this life.  If God is the greatest treasure in our lives, then we must not allow other things and people to take us away from Him.  This is what Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:37-39)  In other words, we must put Jesus at the center of our lives, and in all that we do or say, be guided by Him alone.

How then can we find this treasure in our lives today?  How can we discover that God is the greatest treasure of our life?  The gospel tells us that we can find this treasure in the ordinariness of our daily life.  The lesson of the first parable tells us that he found it whilst working in the field.  He discovered the treasure not so much by chance but because he was going on about his daily chores and duties.  We, too, if we are diligent in carrying out our responsibilities well, we will meet God and find Him in our daily tasks.  St Theresa of the Child Jesus reminds us that holiness is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.  God is found in prayer and in silence but also as we fulfill the tasks He appoints for us to do each day, in our chores at home, in the office and in helping our brothers and sisters.

Secondly, we can find this treasure if we desire it.  We must also search for it.  Unlike in the first parable, the man in the second parable found the treasure by chance. He actively went in search of the fine pearl.  We too must work with grace by seeking for the ultimate treasure in our life.  For some people, God comes to them in ways beyond their expectations.  For some, God wants them to find Him through study, prayer, and research.  We must make ourselves available to the different ways that the Lord wants to touch us, by going for retreats, reading spiritual books or making time for personal prayer.  It is not enough to say that God is far from me, if we do not make ourselves available to Him.  It is necessary that we find the will of God for ourselves so that we can give ourselves fully to Him and His will.

Regardless whether we find the treasure by chance or by hard work, when we find it, we will find absolute joy in life.  We will find our fulfillment.  In our joy, in our radical transformation as we give up everything to the Lord, we will find great freedom and peace.  Only in that peace and joy can we radiate what we have received.  Only in the joy and peace of the Lord can we be His messengers of peace and joy; and be radiant with His love wherever we go and whoever we meet.  Indeed, Pope Francis reminds us that to be missionaries of the Good News, we must first receive the good news of joy ourselves.  Pope Francis wrote, “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.’”  (EG 3)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

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Today the Gospel of Matthew gives us a small understanding about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Most of us today don’t think in terms of kingdoms, but we could rephrase the Kingdom of Heaven as all who belong the Lord.  It is we who form one people, one grouping, one body in Christ.  Individualism has dominated so much of our thinking, yet our Scriptures are clear:  we go to the Father as a people, as a community of people, not just as individuals.

From Abbot Philip, Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 13:44-46 (Parable of the Treasure in the Field)

Mat 13:44  The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field. Which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

Is like. Some think that this parable was not spoken to all the listeners, but was put forth to the Apostles alone, in the house; this is concluded from verse 36 (Euthymius, in loc). It would appear more probable that it was spoken with the others above. But as the Apostles asked for an explanation, not of all the others, but only of that of the cockles, after they had returned to the house, it seems probable that the Evangelist, after this one, related how Christ returned to the house, and the Apostles asked for an explanation of it. The same may be said of all the events which follow in this chapter.

So far, in the four parables of the sower, the grain of mustard seed, the good and bad seed, and the leaven, Christ described two peculiarities of the kingdom of heaven—how it takes a different effect upon different persons, and how from a small beginning it gains a great increase. Christ now puts forth its value, to show of how great worth men ought to think it, and with what diligence they should seek it.

The kingdom of heaven in this passage ought to be understood in the same sense as in the preceding parables; that is, as the faith, the Gospel, and the evangelical doctrine—as S. Ambrose (Serm. ii. on Ps. cxviii.), Euthymius, Theophylact—although some think that Christ is the kingdom of heaven, as S. Irenaeus (iv. 43), S. Hilary, S. Athanasius (Quest, xliv., if he be the author), S. Jerome (In Comment. and Vigil, iii. de Incarn.). Others, again, say that this kingdom is the Old and New Testaments, as S. Augustin (lib. i., Quest. Evangel. quest. 13), Bede. S. Jerome also approves this opinion.

Unto a treasure. A thing which cannot be estimated. Of those whose wealth is so great that it cannot be told, we say, “They have a treasure”. So S. Paul (1 Cor 2:9).

Hidden. Because it was not heard of by the world (Isa 44:4; 1 Cor 2:7).

Which a man, havingfound, hid it. It is not necessary to adapt this to the thing signified by the parable, for, as has been said before, it is not a part of the parable, but an addition; nor is it said to teach anything but to fill up the parable and describe what is done when we find a treasure and cannot immediately remove it; we conceal it lest, before we can procure implements for digging, another come and carry it off. S. Jerome and Bede, however, say that he who finds the kingdom of heaven hides it in his heart; that is, cherishes and preserves it, that it may not escape him. If this mean anything, it only seems to mean that he who finds the kingdom of heaven—that is, the Gospel—ought to be careful that it do not slip from his grasp, and to take all pains to secure it. This is to hide it, not that another may not find it, but that he himself may not lose it. For, although he who finds a treasure hides it, lest another should find it, because if so, he himself would lose it, the parable in that respect is not like the kingdom of heaven, for one does not lose it because another finds it, for it can be equally found and equally possessed by all; although Scripture does sometimes speak as if one could not find it unless another lose it (Rom 11:19; Rev 3:11). This, however, was said in reference to the branches of trees and the crown of kings; for a fresh shoot cannot be grafted into a tree unless the old branch be broken off, nor can anyone seize a crown unless another has lost it.

For joy thereof selleth all that he hath. This does not mean that the Gospel is to be bought, for Christ says, “Freely have you received, freely give ” (Matt 10:8), but that it is to be estimated so highly, that there is nothing which the man who has found it ought not to do to obtain it, even though all his goods be sold and lost, or infamy endured, or even life itself sacrificed. Christ named goods rather than life, and honour, and anything else, if the man have anything, that He might speak in accordance with the custom of men, who, to gain a treasure, will sell all that they have. In a word, this parable signifies only what is said in another place in other words. In Matt 10:37, Christ names all the most precious things which whoever, when the need arises, does not part from for the kingdom of heaven, is not worthy to gain it.

Mat 13:45  Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls. 
Mat 13:46  Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it.

The kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant. The kingdom of heaven is not like the man, but the pearl; as, in the former parable, it was compared not to the man who found it, but to the treasure that was found. The meaning, however, is that the same thing happens in the finding and in the gaining of the kingdom of heaven. If any merchant seeking for pearls find one good one, he goes and sells all that he has, that he may buy it, as explained on Matt 11:16, 17. We ought to resemble the merchant, and, when we have found the kingdom of heaven, we ought to spare no pains, no expense, nothing whatever, that we may possess it. This parable has the same meaning as the former, the matter only is different. “Good” in the Greek is  καλους μαργαριτας; (pulchras margaritas), “beautiful,” but in this kind of merchandise whatever is beautiful is good (quæ pulchræ sunt eædem bonæ).

Pearls. This is an instance of the species being put for the genus; that is, a pearl is put for every kind of precious stone. The word margarita, or margaritum, means only that kind of single pearl which is found in shell-fish, and which bears the name of pearl in almost all the languages of Europe.

https://thedivinelamp.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/maldonads-commentary-on-matthew-1344-46-parable-of-the-treasure-in-the-field/

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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 2, 2017 — The Kingdom of Heaven is Like an Unexpected Treasure — Are We “Radiating The Presence of God”?”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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