Scripture: Lectionary 401. July 29. Exodus 32:15-24. Psalm 106:19-20,21-22,23. Matthew 13:31-35:

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Our first reading contrasts greatly with the second reading today. We see the dark side of humans in the first as the covenant is literally broken into two and smashed by Moses while the people have rejected the covenant and turned to Aaron to make them some symbol that would unite them to a god or medium that would make God more present to them. Moses will vent his anger, which in this scene, seems greater than God’s wrath! Chapter 32 is a difficult chapter to comment upon no matter how you interpret it. The Gospel message shows the positive side of how the kingdom of God grows rapidly and extensively within a short time even though it started like a mustard seed or some leaven in a large mass of dough.

Scholars struggle with the golden calf (ox or bull) that was made from the gold and silver jewelry of the people. Was it really idolatry? Were they looking for a leader who would be more present to them than Moses? Was Aaron too weak to confront them on their impatience and stop them from their carousing? The anger in this episode is so evident on the part of Moses and God that it needs no cover up. The covenant was broken and Moses was not seen as the one they wanted to lead them. He was missing on Mount Sinai for forty days ( a rather long period of time).

Moses fuses the golden calf then grinds it into powder and makes the people drink of it, reminding us of the waters of bitterness that tested an adulterer in front of the priests. Adultery was also another way of speaking of idols and idol worship. The act of drinking the remains showed Moses’ way of belittling their golden calf and making it waste matter!

God is more merciful and patient with all of this than Moses is. Punishment will occur but there is hope for the people through the Levites who will see to proper worship in the rest of the journey and later in the Temple once that is built. The guilty were punished not the innocent.

We all have our dark side or sides in life’s experiences of failure and sin. However, we learn from the mustard seed and the energy of the leaven in the dough that we are capable of growth as humans not only bodily, psychologically, and intellectually, but also spiritually. We need to know and learn from both sides of our lives—the dark side and the bright side. Amen.

Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.