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.
The Lord does deeds of justice,
gives judgement for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses
and his deeds to Israel's sons. (R./)
The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
His wrath will come to an end:
he will not be angry for ever. (R./)
He does not treat us according to our sins
nor repay us according to our faults.
For as the heavens are high above the earth
so strong is his love for those who fear him. (R./)
As far as the east is from the west
so far does he remove our sins.
As a father has compassion on his sons,
the Lord has pity on those who fear him. (R./)
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 detailed in Exodus 19 to 24, chapters 32 to 34 are vital to the message of Exodus. Because the Way of the Covenant is a total way of life under God, it will touch all aspects of our existence. Moses understood that life in all its complexity is a gift from the living God, who sustains us day by day. This is exemplified in Moses’ own direct experience of God.
He had a special tabernacle, or meeting tent, for his encounters with God. As Moses entered this tent, the column of cloud came down to its entrance, and there the Lord of glory spoke with Moses "face to face". While this is a figure of speech, since the eternal God has no "face" or "voice" like a human being, still is highlights the unique privilege and holiness of Moses . Later in Deuteronomy it says: "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). It says that Moses stayed in God’s presence for forty days and forty nights, without food or water. His fasting may have been a penance for the sins of his people, but might equally be from deep contemplative joy. We too are summoned to some kind of personal encounter with the living God.
The way of Moses can be our guide. We should progress in purity of heart and purpose, towards a higher spiritual state. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). As we reach out to God we too can get some glimpse of the divine presence, and pray, like Moses, to "The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity."
At the request of his disciples, Jesus explained his parable of the wheat and the weeds. Its focus is the final separation of the good and the wicked at the end of time. He suggests that until that final separation, good and evil will co-exist in the world and in the church, and also, perhaps, within our own hearts. The weeds and the wheat grow together, and the final separation will be made by God in judgment. It is not our place to judge each other’s moral quality in the present time, since judgment about people’s motives belongs to God alone.
A favourite theme of Pope Francis has been that we should we slow to judge. It’s all too easy to see ourselves as the wheat and identity various other groups as the weeds. We need to remember what Saint Paul said to those who were judging him, "Do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes." Remember that he is a "God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness."