July 28, 2011 - Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

We can see how cautious the Lord is to prevent idol worship of any kind. Various cultures over the millennia set up statues in the shapes of animals or human beings and worshipped those statues, but the Lord had told his people that that would not be acceptable. These statues were attempts to see what cannot be seen, to make visible the invisible God. When the golden calf was made after leaving Egypt, it was supposed to be a statue of the Lord, but the Lord rejected any such symbols. He carefully taught his people that he is holy, entirely different from anything within their experience. No earthly image can capture his essence.

Now, a year after leaving Egypt, the Lord is giving his people a point a reference, a place to worship. So Moses, following the instructions of Lord, sets up the Dwelling Place. We see here the amazing wisdom of God. In order to teach the Israelites about the invisible, God has them build a tent. It is a very large tent, and, in the middle, there is a throne, but no one lives in the tent and no one sits on the throne. The Israelites carried this tent and this throne around the desert. When they stopped, this tent was placed in the middle of the camp. They were not worshipping a tent! The questions form in their minds: Who lives in that tent? Who sits on that throne? They already know the answer: the Lord, the Almighty, the invisible God, the One Who Is.

In the middle of all this, under the throne, there is a box. This box is an ordinary box, made of wood and covered in gold. It is called “The Ark of the Covenant”. Inside this box there were three things: the Ten Commandments written on stone, Aaron’s staff, and a jar of Manna, which is to say: the word of God, a symbol of the priesthood and the resurrection, and the bread from God. We too, in every church, have a box, an ordinary box covered in gold or silver or bronze. Whenever we enter or leave the Church, we genuflect toward the box. We worship toward the box. We are not worshipping a box! The questions should form in our minds: What is in there? Who is in there? We already know the answer: the Lord, the Almighty, the invisible God, the One Who Is.