- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

August 16, 2017

Fr. John Denburger, OCSO [1]

19th Week in Ordinary Time
Deuteronomy 34: 1 – 12; Ps 66; Matthew 18: 15 – 20

To Moses, before his death, God tells him about the Promised Land, “I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you shall not cross over.” So, in the land of Moab, not far from the long-awaited land of promise, Moses dies.

In the Book of Numbers we are told why Moses is not allowed to set foot in the land: when ordered by God to strike the rock for water, Moses questioned “are we to bring water for you out of this rock” and God responded, “because you were not faithful to me…you shall not lead this community into the land I will give them.”   (Numbers 20: 10ff). He would never set foot there but, at least, he could feast his eyes. But in his lifetime he had had the extraordinary favor and exquisite privilege of feasting his eyes on something infinitely exceeding a land. In the reading from Deuteronomy, we heard, “Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

God and His beloved Moses knew each other face to face – what are we to make of this when in the First Letter of St. John he declares that no one can see God? Did St. John forget about Moses’ experience? Was he unaware of the passage from Deuteronomy? There is no answer to that.

The Hebrew word for “face” can also mean “presence” – why did the translator choose “face” rather than “presence” – perhaps, to underline, to impress upon the hearers, upon us the depth of intimacy, the profound communion, a friendship beyond words, the unique love between the All Holy One and His servant, Moses – the one “who had no equal in all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to perform.”

What does this reading have to tell us about our own relationship with our God? If we think that Moses is the only one to have had profound intimacy with God, then we have missed an important truth. Our God desires such intimacy with each of us – the Word of God is most clear that God has no favorites – His love is universal, unconditional, passionate and directed to each one of us.

This morning we have an absolute assurance of this – when we receive the Holy Eucharist – as we take the Blessed Sacrament into our persons – are we, you and I, not face to face, presence to presence with our God? The words of St. John become ours: “what we have heard…seen with our eyes…looked upon and our hands have touched” – is God Himself. May this be our deepest conviction.