Throughout the course of salvation history, God has chosen for himself leaders and prophets to be his instruments in speaking to and guiding his people. A key figure in the Old Testament is Moses, whom the Lord called to lead the people through the wilderness towards the Promised Land. There are three crucial elements in the mission of Moses that will help us understand the prophecy he makes in today’s first reading. First, he received the law of God as the sign and expression of God’s covenant with his people. Second, Moses served as a mediator between God and the people. Third, God spoke with Moses “face to face,” as a man talks to his friend (Ex 33:11).
Though Moses was the Lord’s intimate friend, there was a limit to how much he could comprehend. At one point he asked the Lord to be allowed to see his glory, but the Lord denied his request, reminding Moses, “no one can see me and live.” Still, God allowed him to “see his back,” that is, to see his goodness and the effect of his actions in the world, and to understand that it was the Lord who did it (cf. Ex 33:18 23).
In today’s reading, Moses prophesies to the people that the Lord will send them a successor like himself: “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen.” Of this future prophet, the Lord told Moses: “I will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.”
Who is this promised “prophet like Moses” who will serve in the name of the Lord as a lawgiver and mediator, who will speak with the Lord face to face? It is no other than Jesus Christ. Therefore, when Jesus entered the synagogue and taught, as we read in today’s Gospel, “the people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” Jesus taught with authority because he is the perfect fulfillment of the prophecy of Moses. He is the new Moses. As Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant (cf. Ex 24), Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant (cf. Heb 9:15).
As the mediator of the new and greater covenant, Christ is greater than Moses. The privilege of seeing the face of God was denied to the old Moses, but the new Moses sees the face of the Father. St. John in his Gospel prologue writes: “no one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (Jn 1:18). In light of this passage, Pope Benedict XVI comments: “It is in Jesus that the promise of the new prophet is fulfilled. What was true of Moses only in fragmentary form has now been fully realized in the person of Jesus: He lives before the face of God, not just as a friend, but as a Son; he lives in the most intimate unity with the Father” (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 6).
The authority of the word of Jesus, which so amazes the people, flows from his face-to-face intimacy with the Father, from his union with God the Father as the Son. The divine authority at work in his teaching and in his actions is so powerful that an evil spirit feels threatened in his presence, for the spirit recognizes him as the “Holy One of God.” The unclean spirit is so uncomfortable because he knows that Jesus has come to “destroy” him, to undo the work of Satan, to free people from the slavery to sin. Jesus the new Moses has come to lead his people to the true Promised Land of Heaven. This is what matters. The old Moses left something incomplete; it is the new Moses who will finish the task of leading the whole of humanity into the heavenly city, where God will satisfy all the deepest longings of every human heart.
In the second reading, St. Paul has in view our ultimate destination in the heavenly city which God has prepared for those who love him (cf. 1 Cor 2:9). Paul is not against anyone having a wife or a husband; marriage is part of God’s plan. But all of us are called to be “anxious about the things of the Lord,” rather than about “the things of the world.” Paul is stressing the urgency and the absolute priority that should be given to the things of God, so that we never deviate from the path to the heavenly city which is the goal of all humanity.
Do I recognize the authority of Jesus when I am faced with disturbing elements in life? Have I experienced Jesus, the new Moses, satisfying all the deepest longings of my human heart? Am I more “anxious about the things of the world” than about “the things of the Lord?”
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 2. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.