The first reading at our Sunday Mass is always from somewhere in the Old Testament. In assembling the readings for Sunday Masses, the Church looked through the Old Testament in search of a passage that reinforced the message God had for us in the Gospel. Usually the Church gives us a first reading that fits nicely with the Gospel. For today, though, the only connection I can see between the two readings is that Moses appears in both of them. And since I can’t see how they fit together, let me take them separately, looking for God’s differing messages in both.
In the first reading, when God had told Moses that he wanted to enter into a covenant with him, Moses went about setting up the covenant ceremony the way he would do it with the chief of a rival clan. He had his men dig a trench across a field, then he had them split in two the bodies of a heifer, a goat and a ram. After the men had put the halves of the carcasses on opposite sides of the trench, Moses waited. If God, in place of a rival chief, approached through the trench, Moses would hop down into the trench, and he’d proceed toward God, the other party to the covenant, and approaching each other, they would call out, “If I am unfaithful to our pact, let me be split in two like these animals.
God’s message for us in that story is that he is prepared to meet with all of his creatures on their own level. He hears the prayers of the illiterate, of the insane, and even of children in the womb.
In the Gospel story, God’s message for us is that he has heaven waiting for us if we are true to him through our troubles.
A week after Jesus announced his plan of going up to Jerusalem to be crucified, he went up a mountain in search of some solace from the Father. The solace came with God temporarily lifting him up for a share of the glory that would be his.
In the Old Testament there were only two individuals who were already in heaven. One was Elijah who was taken up in a fiery chariot. The other was Moses, whose complete grave from opposite Beth-peor was whisked up to heaven. From their place in heaven Elijah and Moses moseyed over to speak soothingly with Jesus about his departure from this world.