You gotta love Moses.
In the passage we hear from Exodus at Mass today, on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, we catch up with Moses on Mount Sinai. He’s gotten up pretty early in the morning, leaving the Israelites behind, so that he can see God face-to-face.
Remarkably, God obliges.
Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out,
‘The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.’
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
And perhaps just as remarkably, Moses decides to introduce the Holy One to a few thousand of his closest friends.
Then [Moses] said, ‘If I find favor with you, O Lord,
do come along in our company.’
C’mon along, Lord. And if You don’t feel entirely welcome at first, just give it a chance…will You? Because…
‘This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own.’
Who could refuse an invitation like that?
But the more I meditate on this passage, the more I recognize that Moses isn’t the initiator at all. God desires the relationship with this stiff-necked people. God invites Moses up the mountain so that he can serve as mediator. And like any good match-maker, Moses highlights God’s most fetching qualities to help seal the deal.
The Lord is, Moses says,
a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.
And so, the dance begins…between God…and God’s reluctant people.
Perhaps we’re reluctant…precisely because it’s so hard to wrap our minds and hearts around this seemingly one-sided deal that the Lord offers: ‘slow to anger, and rich in kindness and fidelity.’
It’s an almost impenetrable mystery. We have to become mystics, like Moses, just in order to begin to understand. That’s what occurred to me when I heard the words of the Collect (opening prayer) at Mass today:
God, our Father, who by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification made known to the human race your wondrous mystery, grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty.
As today’s reading from Exodus suggests, Moses more or less conscripted the Israelites to enter into this relationship. In our opening prayer, we reflect on having the benefit of Jesus (the Word) and the Spirit he sent…to help us explore and deepen our connection with the Lord.
But on some level, I suppose, we’ll always remain conscript mystics just like the Israelites. We can never know God, in God’s fullness—both Trinity and Unity. It boggles the mind. It overwhelms the heart.
So maybe Moses had the right idea after all: We bow down to worship…and then try to share the mystery with all those around us.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.