His Dwelling with Us

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Let’s start with an antithesis. On the one hand, God dwells everywhere. Nothing could exist at all if it were not upheld immediately by God’s power. On the other hand: We cannot see; we cannot grasp; we cannot know God.

See? Antithesis. Both true. God everywhere. But everything we see, know, conceive: not God. Human beings search constantly for God, Who is everywhere.

Then: God began to work with us to help us deal with this problem. He drew close to the ancient Israelites. He gave them His holy name to invoke. He led them out of slavery to their homeland. He established a dwelling place with them. The Ark of the Covenant.

At first, the Ark moved from place to place. The Holy Dwelling–the place to meet God–was a tent. It could be struck and moved.

Then King David established a permanent location, on the same spot where Abraham had obeyed God’s command, unto the sacrifice of his only son Isaac. David’s son Solomon built the Temple, and the Holy Dwelling had a home: the highest point in the city of…Jerusalem.

singer-mick-jagger-rolling-stones-photos-perfomance-songsSo, in the days of old, the Jews–and other people, too, who believed in God–they solved the great antithesis of God being everywhere and nowhere by going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. God reigned everywhere, but could be seen nowhere–but you could visit Him in Jerusalem. You could draw close to Him in Jerusalem.

Let’s pause here for a moment and think about one thing: For an ancient Israelite, or other God-fearing pilgrim, to go to visit God in Jerusalem fundamentally meant going to visit the tablets of the Law. The most important objects in the Temple were the stones on which God had inscribed the Ten Commandments. So there’s an interesting irony about this, too–another antithesis which God, in His love, resolves. How does a person really “go to visit” the Ten Commandments? How do you go on a pilgrimage to the sanctuary where the Ten Commandments are really kept?

Right: By traveling inside. The true temple of the Ten Commandments is a sober, upright conscience. The Israelites, and other ancient believers–they went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem on foot, across the hills and dales. And they went deep inside themselves to find the voice of God, the truth of His will for them. They did both, at the same time–the one journey helping them to make the other.

But it never came together for the ancient Israelites, at least not completely. The prophets declared to the people: you come to the Temple Mount and offer your sacrifices, but inside you know perfectly well that you lie, and cheat, and kill with your malicious thoughts.

And Jerusalem, built as the city of divine peace—it became a tense den of rival factions and worldliness. When Jesus walked the earth, the “Holy City” of Jerusalem burbled like a cesspool, full of the constant tension of small-minded antagonisms.

But wait! We breezed right past the most important point: “When Jesus walked the earth…”

The antithesis: God is everywhere. But nowhere can we see Him. No longer true! “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father,” says the Lord. No holy dwelling has ever been, or ever could be, like this: Jesus. 5’ 8” or 9” or 10”, 150 pounds or so. God. As Pope-Emeritus Benedict put it:

Jesus is a new mode of God’s presence among men, a radically new way in which God makes His home with mankind. In Jesus, God gives Himself entirely into the world.

Christ’s Pascal Mystery in Jerusalem involved the following: He made His flesh and blood present in consecrated bread and wine. He offered this same flesh and blood as a perfect sacrifice to the Father–not on the altar in Temple, but on the altar of the cross, just outside the city walls. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. And to this day, the sacrament of His Body and Blood makes Him physically present in every Catholic church on earth.

So the antithesis has become the history of God’s humble love for us. God dwells in highest heaven. God dwells in the sanctuary of an upright conscience. God dwells everywhere His power reaches, which is everywhere. God animates His image and likeness, man. Every man woman and child, born and unborn–all bear the stamp of God; all are God’s children.

Benedict Jesus of Nazareth InfancyBut, above all, God dwells in Christ’s flesh and blood. God dwells in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. God dwells in the tabernacle.

Human beings seek and seek and seek, and never find. Can’t get no satisfaction. But God dwells right here! He satisfies our longing with such kindness and humility that we can hardly bring ourselves to believe it.

What kind of life, really, can we lead, if the altar and the tabernacle do not sit at the center of it? How can we really pray, if we do not pray to, in, and through the living Christ Who dwells in the Blessed Sacrament?

Are we fancy modern men and women any less in need than the ancient Israelites were—in need of a pilgrimage to the dwelling place of God? Do we need to find the holy dwelling any less than they needed to find it?

Of course not. We need it 100 times more. We need the Blessed Sacrament; we need the Mass; we need the tabernacle. And our neighbors who do not know about the holy dwelling–they need it, too.

We need—and they need–to find the holy dwelling of God, lit by a burning lamp. The tabernacle of the Most High. The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, God with us.

2 thoughts on “His Dwelling with Us

  1. Father Mark,

    “Belloq”, “Zell”, “Mick”:

    “Please allow me to introduce myself
    I’m a man of wealth and taste
    I’ve been around for a long, long year
    Stole many a mans soul and faith
    And I was round when jesus christ
    Had his moment of doubt and pain
    Made damn sure that pilate
    Washed his hands and sealed his fate
    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guess my name
    But what’s puzzling you
    Is the nature of my game
    I stuck around st. petersburg
    When I saw it was a time for a change
    Killed the czar and his ministers
    Anastasia screamed in vain
    I rode a tank
    Held a generals rank
    When the blitzkrieg raged
    And the bodies stank
    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
    Ah, what’s puzzling you
    Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
    I watched with glee
    While your kings and queens
    Fought for ten decades
    For the gods they made
    I shouted out,
    Who killed the kennedys?
    When after all
    It was you and me
    Let me please introduce myself
    I’m a man of wealth and taste
    And I laid traps for troubadours
    Who get killed before they reached bombay
    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
    But what’s puzzling you
    Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
    But what’s confusing you
    Is just the nature of my game
    Just as every cop is a criminal
    And all the sinners saints
    As heads is tails
    Just call me lucifer
    Cause I’m in need of some restraint
    So if you meet me
    Have some courtesy
    Have some sympathy, and some taste
    Use all your well-learned politesse
    Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, um yeah
    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guessed my name, um yeah
    But what’s puzzling you
    Is the nature of my game, um mean it, get down
    Woo, who
    Oh yeah, get on down
    Oh yeah
    Oh yeah!
    Tell me baby, what’s my name
    Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
    Tell me baby, what’s my name
    I tell you one time, you’re to blame
    Ooo, who
    Ooo, who
    Ooo, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Oh, yeah
    What’s my name
    Tell me, baby, what’s my name
    Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name
    Ooo, who, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Ooo, who, who
    Oh, yeah”
    [ Sympathy for The Devil by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, http://www.lyricsfreak.com/r/rolling+stones/sympathy+for+the+devil_20117881.html

    We need to understand the face of evil in order to grasp our absolute need for the perfect good.

    As usual, we do understand, or, we would, if we could just face the mirror.

    “Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
    You can hear the boats go by
    You can spend the night beside her
    And you know that she’s half crazy
    But that’s why you want to be there
    And she feeds you tea and oranges
    That come all the way from China
    And just when you mean to tell her
    That you have no love to give her
    Then she gets you on her wavelength
    And she lets the river answer
    That you’ve always been her lover
    And you want to travel with her
    And you want to travel blind
    And you know that she will trust you
    For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.
    And Jesus was a sailor
    When he walked upon the water
    And he spent a long time watching
    From his lonely wooden tower
    And when he knew for certain
    Only drowning men could see him
    He said “All men will be sailors then
    Until the sea shall free them”
    But he himself was broken
    Long before the sky would open
    Forsaken, almost human
    He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
    And you want to travel with him
    And you want to travel blind
    And you think maybe you’ll trust him
    For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

    Now Suzanne takes your hand
    And she leads you to the river
    She is wearing rags and feathers
    From Salvation Army counters
    And the sun pours down like honey
    On our lady of the harbour
    And she shows you where to look
    Among the garbage and the flowers
    There are heroes in the seaweed
    There are children in the morning
    They are leaning out for love
    And they will lean that way forever
    While Suzanne holds the mirror
    And you want to travel with her
    And you want to travel blind
    And you know that you can trust her
    For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.”
    [Suzanne, Leonard Cohen, http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Suzanne-lyrics-Leonard-Cohen/35368C7934C68C3748256AF0002649BC ]

    In God we trust.



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