Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
I like to go camping. There’s something about the simplicity of it that calms and strengthens my soul. After settling on a campsite, there’s a bit of work to do to prepare a temporary dwelling. The way I camp changed after getting married. Now, I was not only setting up a place for me to sleep, I was also setting up a place for my wife, the royalty of my life. While keeping it simple and portable, I also wanted the campsite to be pleasant, beautiful, and comfortable in a way that didn’t occur to me before. I imagine Moses must have felt the same way as he set up the tent of the Lord’s Presence. Knowing God so intimately, he wanted the Dwelling to be a place where the Lord would be eager to meet him and be visible to the whole Chosen People that were camped all around. Generations later (as we hear in today’s psalm), they were still singing songs about the blessing and beauty of God’s Dwelling place, which had changed to the Temple.
Seeing the cloud of the Lord’s presence must have been a powerful assurance for the Israelites. It was clear when God ‘moved in,’ because of the cloud that settled down and covered the tent. The way God dwells with us changed when Jesus came. Rather than having one particular dwelling set apart in the Tent or the Temple, God came to mingle with us all in body, to truly be with us. In the Sacraments, and especially Eucharist, we have the portal to God’s living in us. What we gained in intimacy, we lost in subtlety. Today God’s presence is so continuous, it’s easy to get used to it and miss it altogether. When did you first notice God had ‘moved in’ to your dwelling? How did you know the Holy Spirit was present? As a great saint once said, ‘bidden or unbidden, God is present.’ Sometimes I yearn for those occasional, undeniable experiences of God, like a cloud descending upon me after I specially prepared myself to receive God. But if God gave us too many those ‘set-apart’ experiences, it would negate the holiness of each moment, each corner of creation, and every person made in God’s precious image.
God’s presence is powerful, and God has, can, and does move mightily in the world. This is an ancient truth, something ‘old’ we can bring from the storeroom of our tradition. It is ‘aged to perfection.’ But in Christ, God’s presence is also a continuous, life-giving, silent energy moving us deeper into our vocation one patient breath at a time. The long arc of righteousness is bending the world back to God and away from all the sin and injustice that tries to snuff out what is good. This is fresh and new, even today. This is the Good News message our friends and neighbors long to hear. Our storeroom exists for mission. God dwells with us so that we might be healed and whole agents that spread divine goodness in the world. Whether through direct evangelization, service, works of justice and mercy, or prayer, we are each living with a God who likes to share abundance, and wants us to share it too. May we go with God into the world today, eager to share and live the Good News. Amen.