Tuesday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time
The first reading today figures prominently in the first volume of Pope Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth. Benedict observes that after Moses, Jesus is the first person in Scripture have such a close relationship with the Father that they “speak […] face to face, as one man speak to another.” Jesus, like Moses, comes to give us a familiar closeness with the Father. The close relationship that each has with the Father, they wish to share with others. So at the end of this moving description of the closeness of God and Moses, we see Moses once again taking the Ten Commandments from God and bringing them to the Israelites.
In our legalistic society, we usually think of laws as existing for their own sake, rather than something else—certainly not for a personal relationship. But the Ten Commandments (and the whole moral law) flows out of the relationship that God had with Moses, and is a guide to the Israelites for how to share in that relationship. The Commandments even begin with a reminder of the relationship that God has with Israel, of how God loved Israel and them from slavery. The moral life is not some set of cold and universal duties that we follow for duty’s sake. It is a concrete set of guidelines for how to live out a concrete relationship with God in love. Let us accept this gift in the right state of mind, and use the moral law to help us cultivate that relationship with God where we, too, speak with God face to face, as one friend to another.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.