Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent.
When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lordwould speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The Lord.” The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “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 the fourth generation.”
And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. He said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”
He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
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.
The God of grandeur and closeness
Moses’ conversations with God, like most of ours, are a mix of strangeness and comfort. The encounter is surrounded with smoke and clouds, with the pomp and ceremony of God’s people standing at rapt attention outside their tents as Moses meets the mighty God who led them out of Egypt. Yet inside the tent Moses was encountering God in a very different way, speaking to God “as one speaks to a friend.” God, it seems, is both the Holy Other, a partner in an intimate friendship with the Divine but also Wholly Other, a creator God who cannot be reduced to our scale.
In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invites us, like Moses, to speak intimately to God “as one friend speaks to another.” Today’s readings are a good reminder that God invites us both to familiarity with God who is near as well as to wonder at the grandeur and bigness of God.
—Fr. Matt Spotts, SJ, is a recently ordained priest of the Midwest Jesuits serving as an associate pastor at Ss. Joseph-St. Francis Xavier parish in Wilmette, IL as well as doing pastoral ministry at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.
God, you are the source of everything that is, the ground of all Being and the creator of all. Yet somehow we are not beneath your notice. Today, give me the strength to speak to you as a friend does to another, and in your time and your way, draw me into the bigness of you.
—Fr. Matt Spotts, SJPlease share the Good Word with your friends!