Monday, August 03, 2009

Reading for Aug 4, Memorial: St John Vianney, Priest

Tuesday, 18th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Numbers 12:1-13

The Complaint of Miriam and Aaron Against Moses

[1] Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman; [2] and they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?" And the LORD heard it. [3] Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth. [4] And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, "Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting." And the three of them came out. [5] And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. [6] And he said, "Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. [7] Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. [8] With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"

[9] And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed; [10] and when the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. [11] And Aaron said to Moses, "Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. [12] Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother's womb."

Moses Intercedes
[13] And Moses cried to the LORD, "Heal her, 0 God, I beseech thee." [14] But the LORD said to Moses, "If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut up outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again." [15] So Miriam was shut up outside the camp seven days; and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. [16] After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and encamped in the wilderness of Paran.
12.1-16. Aaron and Miriam's complaints about Moses begin with the subject of his marriage to a foreigner. (The Hebrew text says "Cushite", which means "from Ethiopia", but if we look at Habakkuk 3:7, which links Cushan to the Midianites, perhaps we can read this passage as referring to Zipporoah: cf. Ex 2:16-21.) But their complaints are really aimed at something much deeper--Moses' unique authority as intermediary between God and his people. He is not the only prophet, they say; however, unlike Moses, they have not the humility to see that prophecy is a charism, a gift to be exercised on behalf of the people; rather, they see it as a privilege from which they can gain advantage. This negative feature of Aaron, along with what Exodus 32 has to tell about him, seems to suggest that his place in folk memory is less positive than might appear at first sight.

The passage really shows what a unique personality Moses was in history of Israel. He was the one who most put his trust in the Lord (perhaps that is the meaning of the Hebrew "anaw", here translated as "meek": v.3). Such was his trust that he became the most long-suffering of men; and brought God to his defense. The severity of Miriam's punishment and swiftness of her cure at Moses' intercession, serve to show how great Moses is. What really makes him great is the fact that God speaks directly to him and not through visions or dreams as in the case of the prophets. So, Moses is greater than the prophets. According to the Hebrew text, Moses saw the "form" of the Lord (v. 8); the Greek translation (presumably because of the spiritual nature of God and his transcendence) says that Moses saw "the glory of the Lord". Similarly St John will say that no one has ever seen God" (Jn 1:18), in order then to go on and stress that only Jesus Christ, the Son of God and himself true God, could reveal to us all the truth about God.

However; God's spirituality and transcendence does not mean we cannot enter into direct conversation with him through prayer. "Moses' prayer is characteristic of contemplative prayer by which God's servant remains faithful to his mission. Moses converses with God often and at length, climbing the mountain to hear and entreat him and coming down to the people to repeat the words of his God for their guidance. Moses 'is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly, not in riddles' for 'Moses was very humble, more so than everyone else on the face of the earth' (Num 12:3, 7-8)' " ("Catechism of Catholic Church", 2576).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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