Thursday July 28, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38)†† Gospel (St. Matthew 13:47-53)
In the Old Testament reading from the Book of Exodus that we heard this morning, we hear about Moses building the dwelling place where God Himself was going to live among the people of Israel. It was in a tent because the people were nomadic people at that time, wandering about throughout the desert. So the Lord dwelt in a tent among His people.
We see, however, that there are a few important things that are present in this. First of all, we see that there is a veil which separated the Ten Commandments (that is, the Ark of the Covenant) from the people so that the people would not be able to see the Ark of the Covenant. It talks, then, in that way about the holiness of God; that, in essence, He is untouchable, that the covenant is there but you cannot see it Ė you just have to know and believe. But now what we have is Our Lord, Who is the New Covenant. And, as we can all see very clearly right now, there is no veil that separates us from Him; there is nothing standing in the way. It does not in any way suggest that there is less holiness (because the New Covenant is far more holy than the old since the New Covenant is the very Person of Jesus Himself) but it is because of the nature of the relationship. Remember that when Our Lord died the veil in the temple was torn; the curtain that separated the people from the Holy of Holies was torn in two. There is not anything separating us from God any longer. Sin is forgiven in the blood of Christ, and everything is made one. Consequently, what we have in the New Covenant is something which is far greater than what they had in the old.
In the Old Covenant, it pointed to the holiness of God. The people had a relationship with God but it was distant. We have a relationship with God which is intimate, so intimate that we receive Him into ourselves in Holy Communion. The dwelling place of God is not merely here in the tabernacle, but rather the dwelling place of God is within our hearts, within our souls. If there is something that is separating us from God, a veil somehow in between God and us within our own souls, that is not Godís fault. If there is something separating us from God, it is our own fault. And if there is something standing between us and Him, we need to pray and ask what it is so that we can get rid of it, so that we can have that deeper and more profound union with Christ.
The other thing we need to see with what the people of Israel did is we are told that as the cloud came down upon the meeting tent if the cloud did not rise the people would not move forward, and when the cloud rose from the meeting tent then the people packed up their own tents and they moved. In other words, everything was dependent on God. They would not move until God told them it was time to move. They remained where they were when God told them they were to remain. It was not based on what they wanted to do or what their own will might have been. This is a critical lesson that all of us need to learn. We need to look to God, and when He tells us it is time to do something then we do it. If He tells us it is not time, or if He has not told us it is time yet, then we do not.
That is a very, very hard lesson for us to learn. We very often see things that we think need to be accomplished, and off we go to accomplish it. But if it is not Godís Will then we are spinning our wheels, we are wasting our time. We need to make sure, once again, that we are praying and that we are seeking the Will of God and that what we are doing is what He wants us to do Ė not just what we think is a good idea or something that we want to do for ourselves. We want to do Godís Will. If we are going to do His Will, we need to find out what His Will is and ask Him and let Him be in control of our lives. After all, He is God and He can do everything perfectly. Therefore, it only makes sense that we would seek Him and His Will instead of trying to do our own will. But, of course, in our pride we all have to admit that Godís Will very often is very different from our will. Therefore, we do not really want to know His Will because He might tell us that He does not want us to do what we think we want to do. Thanks be to Him, because He will keep us out of trouble doing it that way. But we do not see it that way.
So it is critical for us to learn the lessons that we see from this lesson out in the desert. God now dwells within, and if He is dwelling within, we can carry on intimate conversation with Him in the depths of our being. And there in our own hearts we will be able to recognize Him and we will be able to be obedient to Him, to do what it is that He is asking and to avoid those things that He does not want us to do, so that in this way we can do the Will of God, and in doing His Will we will give Him glory and we ourselves will grow in holiness.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.