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7/19 Readings: The Consolation of Divine Presence

7 Pentecost

Gen. 28:10-19a [Isa. 44:6-8]
Ps. 139:1-11, 22-23 or Wis. 12:13, 16-19 [Ps. 86:11-17]
Rom. 8:12-25
Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43

St. Matthew writes, “From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matt. 27: 45-46).  These words are the opening verse of Psalm 22, part of a lamentation that concludes with confidence in God: “My soul shall live for him; my descendants shall serve him; they shall be known as the Lord’s forever” (Ps. 22:29). The Son’s absolute obedience to the will of the Father does not, however, imply that the passion and death of Jesus were a gnostic phantom.

He indeed suffered, and so do we in union with him. And while our suffering is not, as his is, all suffering, our share in human anguish can bring us to the same cry of dereliction. There are times when God seems far away, when all hope is lost, when the pit closes its mouth. I have been there. I have preached, celebrated the liturgy, carried out pastoral duties, said my prayers, while lost in the turbulent sea of my own inner anguish and grief. My experience, though personal, is not unusual. This is suffering many people must endure.

Occasionally, as a gift and encouragement, we have moments or even seasons that are quite the opposite, when God’s presence is deeply felt and known. While this should not always be expected, it should be welcomed and savored and stored up as a reserve for more challenging days. Consider, then, a moment when the presence of God was [is] broad and universal, touching and reaching everything and everyone.

“Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. He dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south” (Gen. 28:1-14).

A rock for a pillow, the black night for a covering, a dream giving vision, Jacob heard of a God extending east and west, north and south upon an ever-expanding humanity. God is among every family, language, people, and nation; God is the hope of all the ends of the earth. God is the creator of a catholic Church, the house of God. God is not, however, only upon the earth. God opens a gate to heaven and hangs a ladder between earth and sky upon which the angels of God ascend and descend. Like the beams of the cross, the presence of God extends in every direction to everyone and everything.

In the time of our mortal flesh, the children of the kingdom and the children of evil one live together, and these two children are in all of us (Matt. 13:38). Thus, at times, God may seem far away. At other moments and times, a veil is lifted and God is felt and known everywhere.

Look It up:  Read Psalm 139:7-9.

Think About It: Where God is — the heavens, the grave, the wings of the morning, the uttermost part of the sea.


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