[Moses] did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he spoke with the Lord… When Moses finished speaking with [the Lord], he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses entered the presence of the Lord to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out again. – Exodus 34:29, 33, 34
As we gaze upon the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, all of us are being transformed into that same image from glory to glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Cor. 3:18
The Bible says that Moses had a speech impediment. Maybe he was slow of speech. You know, one of those guys who takes forever to process what you’re saying and form a reply. Or maybe he was a stutterer. Today we might say that he was painful to listen to. And in an age of slick media messages, the sound bite, and personal branding, let’s just say that Moses living today wouldn’t have done very well, on natural gifts alone, as a motivational speaker. He had to have someone else interpret for him.
When I was working as a contractor for the ROTC program at a university in Illinois a few years back, there was one non-commissioned officer who taught the lower level military science courses. I heard that he was effective in the classroom and really cared about the students. But when we went into the field for exercises on the weekends, and he had to use his outdoor voice, his words poured out like a thin soup. If you have ever watched a Peanuts cartoon and listened to a grown-up speak, you get the idea. But Sergeant Kokomo (not his real name) sounded like that, only through a wad of chewing tobacco. One of the cadre officers would often run over to his class of head-scratching cadets and say, “you all look confused. Fear not, I speak Kokomo, and I can interpret!” For the next couple of minutes, SGT Kokomo would teach, and the officer would proclaim it to the class in plain, loud English.
I mention this only to point out it’s ultimate irrelevance. Sergeant Kokomo trained young men and women who went on to pursue years of service in our armed forces, and many are still serving. They all went to their assignments armed with the knowledge he imparted, and they did their jobs. Some of them went into harm’s way, and some have paid the ultimate sacrifice. The Army didn’t care if his voice couldn’t carry in the wind, or if he lisped, or if he stuttered. Technology or other people with voices that carry can interpret. God felt similarly toward Moses’ natural shortcomings.
What God cares about is hearts. Moses must have been pretty cool in God’s eyes, because they had extended discussions (prayer). God put him into a position of leadership for which he felt absolutely inadequate. Maybe Moses was simply humble to the point of excrutiation, but Moses bared his heart before God and God bared His heart to Moses. He let Moses get so close to him, that after their talks were over, Moses face glowed like burning lava for days. Even after Moses he threw the original Ten Commandment tablets down the mountain in anger and chagrin. Even after God told Moses to tap a rock with his staff so that clean drinking water would issue forth to slake the thirst of the dehydrated Israelites, and he snapped his staff in two over it instead. Even after forty years of wandering in a tiny desert because of a rebellious generation.
No, we aren’t Moses, but we are all called to serve, right here where we are. We were created to be a gift to others. And we have the same Divine Presence available to us that Moses did, whether our efforts succeed or never get off the ground. Now that Christ has risen to the right hand of the Father to intercede for us, every time we place ourselves in the Eucharistic presence of Our Lord, we have access to the same glory that made Moses face shine. And the more time we spend there, as Paul tells us, the greater the effect. He will take us from glory to glory. But it starts with us. If we but place ourselves there, he will make our unveiled faces shine with the light of His glory.