1 August 2007. St. Alphonsus Liguori
Exodus 34, 29-35 The Law is a Beauty Secret
When we hear the word, “law”, we get a negative reaction. The McCann Erickson 2006 survey tells us that the youth (aged 21-39) question anything that is required and legal; while the young (aged 20 and below) simply do not like anything that resembles a law, a requirement, a rule, and a commandment. For many of us, any law implies a restriction, a curtailing of our freedom, or a limitation. In fact, we do have certain prejudices with those whose lives revolve around the law like lawyers, lawmakers, legislators, politicians, bureaucrats, pen pushers, pious dogmatists and liturgists (they said it is easier to negotiate with a terrorist than with a liturgist). We do not like them because we think that they may have some improper fixation on law or codes of conduct, or legal ideas. Often they are suspected to have a misguided inflexibility, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy and the ignorance of the grace of God. They are the ‘people of the book’ — anything outside of the book is stupidity.
Contrary to this negative reaction, the first reading tells us about a positive attitude to the Law. Taken from the Book of Exodus, the passage is about Moses having brought down the Law of the Lord to his people. When Moses came down from Sinai, bearing with him the tablets of the law, the Israelites found his skin glowing and radiant (not a product of Vicky Belo or Ellen Dermatology). For the Jews, the Torah (meaning, teaching, instruction, or law in Hebrew) are the Law of Moses or the Five Books that compose the Torah or the Pentateuch (Greek for the five containers where the scrolls are kept). The attitude towards the law is reverence. The Jews revered the Torah through the ages like the Samaritans and the Christians.
Traditionally, the Torah is the accepted and inspired Word of God. For many, it is neither exactly history, nor theology, nor legal or ritual guide, but something beyond all three. It is the primary guide to the relationship between God and persons, and the whole meaning and purpose of that relationship. Even in Scripture, the Law governs a covenant relationship. The law is a living document that unfolds over generations and millennia.
Therefore, the Law exists to protect relationships vital to the human race. It expresses basic values. To follow traffic rules ensures order and prevention of road mishaps. To honor our parents affirms the primacy of family relationships and values. To keep away from coveting goods, we respect the private and public property. “Thou shall not kill” commands respect for human life. “To shall not bear false witness” respects the truth.
When Jesus was asked which law is the greatest, he replied, using two well-known precepts in the Old Testament: “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind (Deuteronomy 6,5)” as the greatest commandment; and “love your neighbors as yourself” flows from it (Leviticus 19, 18). By putting these two precepts together, Jesus brought out the inner bond between the love of God and love of neighbor.
It is no wonder why Moses’ skin looked so radiant. Anyone who has ‘met with God’ acquires a sunny disposition. It is the pearl of great price as the Gospel said. Simply put, when one discovers the beauty and joy of Christian faith, we cannot help but smile and be happy. Honestly, there is no ugly picture when the subject/subjects smile. The secret to a glowing skin is a happy relationship with God.