Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(as listed in the Liturgical Calendar for Ireland, 2017)

03 August. Thursday of Week 17

1st Reading: Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38

When the tabernacle and its contents are consecrated, God's glory settles there

Moses did everything just as the Lord had commanded him. In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was set up. Moses set up the tabernacle; he laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars; and he spread the tent over the tabernacle, and put the covering of the tent over it; as the Lord had commanded Moses. He took the covenant and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark, and set the mercy seat above the ark; and he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the curtain for screening, and screened the ark of the covenant; as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.

Gospel: Matthew 13:47-53

The reign of God is like a net (or a storeroom) full of various contents

And Jesus said to his disciples,
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

"Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."

When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.


Things new and old

Today conclude our readings from the Book of Exodus, which is as vitally important to the Old Testament as the gospels are to the New. We also conclude one of the major section in Matthew's gospel, on the reign or kingdom of God (Matthew 11:2, 13:53). Both readings portray God's merciful way of drawing people into the divine life, or into the Kingdom of God.

Biblical religion always had a forward thrust to it. It never consecrated a past golden age but moved onwards towards its messianic age. Along the way it took monumental leaps forward. These changes were required at times by cultural or national crises, like the Philistine threat which was overcome by the unification of the people in a twelve-tribe, one capital, one temple system under David and Solomon. Other changes were required to renew and purify the people, as was the case when Jeremiah proposed the prophetic symbol of the potter: Whenever the object which the potter was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.

God is the divine potter who asks, "Can I not do to you, my people, as the potter does?" There is continuity. The clay is the same and the potter is the same, just as the ark carried memories of Moses. All changes and transitions can be difficult. But in Jesus' vision there is always hope for renewal, for the head of the household can bring from his treasures things new and old. At transitional moments in our personal life as in life of the church, we need the courage to endure through the change, in hope, and the vision to recognize the will of God drawing us into a future more precious even than the past.

The Tent of Meeting

Moses dared not enter the Tent of Meeting because of the glory of the Lord that filled the tabernacle inside the tent. In John's gospel in particular, the glory of the Lord fills the person of Jesus. Yet, whereas Moses could not approach the Tent of Meeting, Jesus invited all people to approach him. The fundamental calling of Jesus in John's gospel is "Come and see."

We value the Old Testament; it is the context within which we read the New Testament. Yet, as Christians we value the New Testament even more, seeing it as the key to the meaning of the Old Testament. As Christians we have a rich storeroom, containing things both new and old. Yet, it is the "new wine" that Jesus brought that we treasure above all. He came to renew the old, to make all things new, and as risen Lord he continues to work in our lives renewing us in mind, heart and spirit so that we become more fully like himself.. {MH}