Then I heard someone speaking to me from the temple, while the man stood beside me. The voice said to me: “Son of man, this is where my throne shall be, this is where I will set the soles of my feet; here I will dwell among the children of Israel forever” (Ezekiel 43:7a).
So many churches no longer have the personnel to celebrate Mass on Saturday morning. Consequently the readings for Saturdays often go unnoticed. As I listened to the reading from the Prophet Ezekiel this morning, I have to admit that it was not a reading with which I was familiar.
The peoples of the ancient world, the world in which Jesus lived, believed that their gods lived in the temples that were built and dedicated to them. The children of Israel were no different. They believed that God lived within the confines of the Temple of Jerusalem. They also believed that the entrance to heaven was directly above the Temple. (St. Luke’s Gospel portrays Jesus ascending to heaven in Jerusalem for this very reason.)
When Jesus came among us, he also taught us that God lived among us, but not just in the Temple. God embraced our humanity and became one of us. When Jesus returned to the Father, he sent the Holy Spirit so that we would still have the presence of God in our midst. God has chosen to live with us.
The Second Vatican Council teaches that God resides with us in three different ways. God is present in our churches and oratories through the reservation of the Eucharist in our tabernacles. God is also present in our midst in the form of the Word. Here we are not talking about the actual book; rather the Word of God is, as the Scriptures tell us, sent to us from God and does not return to God until it has accomplished that which it was sent to do. The Word cannot be confined in the pages of a book or the pages of a lectionary. It is a force that is present among us whenever we remember what we have been told through the Scriptures. Finally God is present among us, dwelling within us. Each and every person who has been baptized carries within God’s presence. When we look into the faces of our brothers and sisters, we look into the face of God. When we listen to and respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters, we are listening to God speak to us through their needs. When we touch them, we touch God.
The reading from the prophet this morning reveals that the people of Israel gradually became aware of how God dwells with us. They felt the presence of God within the Temple. It took many years and the revelation that came to us through Jesus for us to realize that while God is definitely present in our churches and temples, the brick and mortar of these structures cannot contain God immense presence in our midst. Just as we can pay a visit to God by kneeling before a tabernacle, we can also visit God by simply turning inward and finding God within our very selves.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator