Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with the Lord.
Exalt the Lord our God;
bow down before Zion, his footstool.
He the Lord is holy. (R./)
Among his priests were Aaron and Moses,
among those who invoked his name were Samuel.
They invoked the Lord and he answered. (R./)
To them he spoke in the pillar of cloud.
They did his will; they kept the law,
which he, the Lord, had given. (R./)
Exalt the Lord our God;
bow down before his holy mountain
for the Lord our God is holy.
Jesus said to his disciples,"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."
At turning points in our life, and certainly at the hour of death, we must exchange all we own for the pearl of great price. While the gospel clearly calls for radical dedication, the reading from Exodus illustrates the price paid for loyal service of God. Moses is the rugged warrior towards the end of a life full of conflict. After intimate conversation with Tod, Moses had a foretaste of heaven and "the skin of his face became radiant." The peace, strength and compassion of God shone from the eyes and face of this man of God.
Such radiance was too much for the Israelites. They backed away so that Moses had to shout to them from a distance and even began to wear a veil to hide his face. We do not want God as close as this, one who continually calls us to forgive and share with our neighbour, to be faithful to moral principles, and show compassion to those who harm us. Yet, when important decisions had to be made, the people were anxious for God's guidance. We too are grateful for the saintly people who put our life and its demands into a healthy perspective until we can esteem the one pearl of great price!
In seeking the pearl of great price there may be times when the struggle is not against what is evil or immoral, but is caused by the betrayal of friends or feeling abandoned even by God. In those circumstances we need a lot of faith to believe that, like the merchant in search of that pearl, it really is there to be found.
In two short parables today, two people find something of real value, a box of treasure in the first and a pearl of great price in the second. How they find these two valuable objects is quite different. The first person comes across the treasure by accident, not looking for it. He was a simple labourer digging in someone else's field. The last thing he expected to find was a treasure buried in the field. In the second parable the merchant was actively searching for fine pearls and, eventually, as a result of persistent searching, found one pearl of great value which stood out from all the rest.
Both are images of the kingdom of God. Both suggest that our relationship with God is greater than any earthly treasure. The first parable suggests that this treasure comes to us as a grace. We can be surprised by God's gracious initiative, hidden beneath the surface of our lives. Grace can break through to us when we are least expecting it. The second parable highlights the importance of searching in coming to know God. The person who seeks will find If we knock we will have the door opened. We can be, and will be, surprised by grace, but also we are called to seek him with all our heart and soul.