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 Lord would 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 worshipped. He said, "If now I have found favour 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.
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!"
While the giving of the Law is found at Exodus chapters 19-24, the theological commentary on it in 32-34 provides the key to the entire Book of Exodus. Because the Way of the Covenant is a total way of life under God, it will touch all aspects of our existence. According to this way of seeing things, life in all its complexity comes radically from God and is sustained to the end also by God. This is exemplified in the Lord's servant Moses, whose miracles become symbols for our own day-to-day existence.
Moses entered the meeting tent for an encounter with the God of glory: As he entered the tent, the column of cloud would come down to its entrance while the Lord spoke with Moses face to face. Clearly this passage must be interpreted (for the eternal God has no "face" or vocal chords like a human being.), still the unique privilege and supreme holiness of Moses are thoroughly evident. Later the Book of Deuteronomy was to comment: No prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face. He had no equal at all (Deut 34:10-11). We learn how Moses stayed there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights, without food or water. Moses' fasting may have some relation to sin and sorrow, but it seems to be much more directly the result of deep contemplative joy. We too are summoned to the holy of holies within our soul, where face to face we choose God totally and reject what displeases God, until with the saints we will shine like the sun in the Father's kingdom.
What was true for Moses can become true for us too. We should progress in purity of heart to the ever more direct vision of God: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). As we call on the name of the Lord, like Moses and Elijah (cf., 1 Kings 19:12-13) we should be aware of God passing quietly before us. He is "The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity."
Today's gospel is an explanation of the parable of the wheat and the weeds. The focus is on the final separation of the good and the evil at the end of time. The parable itself had suggested that before that final separation at the end of time, good and evil will co-exist in the world and in the church, and within each one of us. The weeds and the wheat grow together. There will be a final separation but that will be done by God. It is not our place to make that separation in the here and now. We will invariably get it wrong, both in regard to ourselves and in regard to others. Inevitably we would pull up wheat as well as weeds.
A clear message from Pope Francis is that we should we slow to judge. It can be all too easy to see ourselves as wheat and then to identify various groups of other people as weeds. Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians says to those who were judging him, "With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court, It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes." Today's first reading reminds us that the Lord who will judge is a "God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness."