Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38
Today’s first reading describes how Moses was instructed to build the Ark of the Covenant-"the Dwelling" and in the response, we hear the psalmist refrain, "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!"
Where do we find God’s dwelling place? Our first response is that God dwells in the Blessed Sacrament present in the Tabernacle. Jesus, Body and Blood, is truly present in the form of bread and wine. This is the basic tenant of our Faith. We believe in the Divine Presence and our spiritual growth is heightened by a developing love of Christ so present.
And God is with us in the Celebration of the Eucharist. At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Sacrament wherein he gave himself to us in order to remain with us and strengthen us. Jesus dwells with us in the very act of the community of believers gathering in prayer at the Altar offering thanksgiving to the Father through the Son.
As a cradle Catholic, I grew up with a strong reverence for the Church building itself. One of my earliest memories is sitting in a silent church, saying my prayers and knowing that God was present here. When I have to make an important decision or if there is a crisis in my life, I seek God in the solace of my parish Church. The Church is a special holy place. There are other designated holy places – retreat centers, grottos, shrines. Perhaps in your home, you have a small place where you sometimes sit or kneel and think about God. God dwells in these holy places.
There is one dwelling place of God that we all too frequently forget, and that is that God dwells in us. Just as we have reverence for Eucharist, for the Tabernacle, for the Church, we must also have reverence for ourselves and for one another. I know a Passionist priest who speaks of this, and to demonstrate it, genuflects to the Tabernacle, to the Altar, and then to the people in the Assembly.
For surely we are not worthy to be called Christian if we spend hours in front of the Tabernacle, devoutly honor Jesus in Communion, bow or make the sign of the Cross as we pass a Church, but fail to treat one another with love and respect.
How lovely indeed are God’s dwelling places – all of them!
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.