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  • Father David M. Knight

Father David's Reflection for Thursday of Week Seventeen (Ordinary Time)

The Responsorial (Psalm 84) proclaims: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!

Exodus 40: 16-38 helps us understand the meaning of the Christian by-word Dominus vobiscum: “The Lord be with you!” (or “God be with you,” as in “Goodbye”). God instructed Moses to set up a tent, a “tabernacle” or Dwelling in which God’s glory would appear. In the Dwelling was the “Ark of the Covenant.” It was a:

wooden chest which was said to have contained the ‘tablets of the Covenant’ or the Law, on which the Decalogue had been carved. [It was] the portable sanctuary of the Hebrews in the desert, and the visible sign of God’s presence.” On the ark Moses placed the “propitiatory,” “a golden plate, adorned with two Cherubim… the throne of divine presence and the place above all others of Yahweh’s forgiveness, on condition of the sprinkling of sacrificial blood by the high Priest on the Day of Atonement.[1].

The Dwelling gave God a visible presence among his people:

The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle…. Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey…. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night… at each stage of their journey.

Today we have the real presence of Jesus in the “tabernacle” in our churches. And the living Church, the body of Christ on earth, is the new Dwelling, a temple “built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” And for atonement “Christ came as a high priest… then through the … tent not made with hands… he entered once for all into the Holy Place… with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” We say with new meaning now: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!”[2]

It is true that not all is lovely in Christ’s Church. In Matthew 13: 47-53 Jesus tells us the Church is like a lake, which may appear beautiful or ugly on the surface, but whose real truth is hidden beneath the water. The beauty of the Church is in people’s hearts, and what we see in their behavior may or may not reflect their inner truth. We pray in Eucharistic Prayer IV at Mass for “all the dead whose faith is known to you alone.” We hold the same openness toward the living. Jesus warns, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” On the other hand, he told them, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Appearances deceive.

In the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass we are focused on, attentive to, an invisible world of mystery. It gets us out of the restricted realm of sense perceptions. This puts us in touch with the core of our religion, which is mystery. As we sing in the Tantum Ergo: “Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui.”[3] Mass reminds us that at the end all will be revealed. In the meantime we keep saying with faith, “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!”[4]

Initiative: Be a priest. Find God in every “tabernacle” where he dwells.

[1] Leon-Dufour, Dictionary of the New Testament.

[2] Ephesians 2: 15-22; 1Peter 2:5; Hebrews 9: 1-28.

[3] “Faith supplies for the deficiency of the senses.”

[4] Matthew 7:21; 21:31.

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