Commentary on the Gospel of
Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
“The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another.” (Exodus 33:11)
For years in the desert, before the temple was built, people came to the meeting tent “to consult the Lord.” When Moses entered the tent, the stiff-necked throng who danced before the idol stood and prayed. How will God seek vengeance? Who must die for our sins? Under the goat skins Moses cried “Lord.” And the Lord answered in wondrous words of kindness and mercy. What does God want? “Come back to me.” What is Moses’ plea? “Stay with us, Lord, so we get through this together.” God listened and called Moses “my intimate friend.” For forty days and nights, their conversation continued.
Aristotle says that humans cannot be friends with gods. The distance between them is surpassing, whereas any friendship requires that something is shared. Some say that God is unknowable and words compromise, so we best worship in silence. For others, God is completely abstract, like a principle or power situated beyond our world. Don’t expect to hear God speaking, ever. But in the tent with Moses, God shows another face. Yahweh is the yearning face of God, who reaches out to find us. Whose words are carved in stone to guide us. Who rushes to forgive a contrite heart.
We each have a garden to tend. It’s not always easy. My shovel turns up twisted metal left behind by ancestors. I can’t tell weeds from wheat. Which seeds do I water? Which are set aside? When weeds first appear, their devastation seems complete. Nothing can be done with this worthless field. I want a righteous garden free of weeds. Let’s uproot everything and start over. In this dream, no darkness falls and all bad seeds are banished from this earth. Then the master gardener visits. To my surprise, he pushes back some noxious growth to reveal a blossom hidden below. Hope returns. I learn to see what is growing in the shadows. Goodness lurks amidst the weeds. Like this earth, I am a mixed bag.
God, please visit this garden. Stay a while. Help us to know which seeds to water. Prepare us for the harvest.