Reading (Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:47-53)
In the first reading today, we hear about Moses setting up the dwelling place of the Lord, the tent in which the people would worship God. It is interesting to note that the Ark of the Covenant, which had the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, was set up separate from where everything else was. It makes perfect sense if you are going to have something which is holy that it is set aside to mark out its holiness. It is not ordinary; it is not just the normal run-of-the-mill sort of thing. So too, when we look at what a Catholic church looks like, there is the main body of the church and then there is the sanctuary which is set aside. It is the holy place; that is what the word “sanctuary” means. It is the place where the Lord dwells among His people.
The difference, however, is that in the Old Testament there was a curtain hung between where the people could be in the temple and where the Holy of Holies was. You could not approach where the Lord was dwelling. You knew He was there but He was on the other side of the curtain, separate from where the people were. Now it is something entirely different. The Lord is here even though there is a separation from the main nave of the church and the sanctuary. It is very clear that the Lord is present in the tabernacle, that He is right here with us. He is not separated from us any longer.
We can come to the Lord anytime, day or night, and we can have union with Him. We can carry on conversation; we can open our hearts; we can be united with the Lord. Even more clear, of course, would it be in a place where there is perpetual adoration and the Lord is exposed on the altar 24 hours a day where people will be able to come to the Lord anytime to be able to pray, to be able to seek guidance from God. So He is present among us.
When we look at what happened in the Old Testament as they erected this dwelling place, this movable and temporary temple, if you will, the cloud and the glory of God filled the temple such that Moses could not even enter the dwelling place because the glory of the Lord had filled it. For us, it is something that is far greater. We do not just have the glory of the Lord – we have the Lord. He is present among us and He is filling His temple in such a way, not that we are unable to enter, but rather that we should all be attracted to it, that we should all desire to be within, that we should all desire to have union with Him.
Now the question that each one of us really needs to look at today is how often do we do that? How frequently do we come to the Lord, Who is here 24 hours a day for us? How often do we come before Him to seek His guidance, to honor Him, to worship Him, to give Him the glory that is due to Him? How often do we spend time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament? For most Catholics, it is exceedingly rare. They come to church on Sunday, and they do not really spend any time in prayer with the Lord. They show up as late as possible, sometimes as late as Communion, then they leave as early as possible, as though somehow they do not want to have time with Jesus. They fall into the same trap as the Israelites of old. “We don’t want to hear the voice of the Lord,” they said. “You talk to Him, Moses, and then you tell us what He said. But we don’t want to hear His voice anymore.” That is still the modern Catholic problem: We do not want to hear the voice of the Lord. We do not want to know what He says because we want to do our own thing, and we do not want union with Jesus Christ.
The Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that in the end the angels are going to separate the good from the evil, the righteous from the unjust. And the evil ones they will throw into the fiery furnace where they will wail and gnash their teeth. When we think about what is going to be at the end of the world when the Lord presents to us all that He has done for us, He is going to ask us what we have done with everything that we knew, with everything that has been given to us. And I think when He shows to us that He was present among us 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year, He is going to ask us how important that was to us and what was most important to us. How much time did we spend with Him? Did we look to Him? Did we give Him the honor and the worship and the glory? Did we pray to Him? Did we seek union with Him? Those are things that we are going to have to answer to because this is the most astounding gift that has ever been given to humanity. It has been entrusted to us as Catholics, and we have all but ignored it.
The TV is more important to most Catholics than the Blessed Sacrament. That will be a day of condemnation when we have to stand before the Lord and admit that out of a day most of us spent zero time with Him, but hours with the television set. It will be a sad day when we have to look at our Lord and say, “Well, I knew that You were there but it didn’t make a bit of difference to me, did it? But now, Lord, I really want to be with You for all eternity!” He will say, “But I was with you in time and you paid no attention. Now you think you want to be with Me for all eternity? How much does it really mean to you?”
Do we want to spend eternity looking at Jesus? Then we better start spending our time looking at Jesus as well because He is here in His dwelling place and very few people ever come to see Him. The Lord, in His silence, would be exceedingly lonely if He were just a human being. But the angels are here; the Trinity is here; Our Lady is here. Jesus is not lonely. But we are because we do not have the Lord. He is here for us and we ignore Him. It is not that He has lost anything; it is that we have, because we have the opportunity to be with Jesus and we choose not to. That is going to be our condemnation unless we make some changes in our lives and put God first.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.