Many years ago, when I lived in
The sermon she preached that night was one of the best and most memorable sermons I’ve ever heard. She mentioned that, while most of the Torah dealt with the journey of the Israelites toward the Promised Land, they never reached it within the Five Books. Even Moses, the greatest prophet of the Jewish people, was not allowed to enter, but had to see it from afar before dying and being buried. She compared that to our spiritual lives, during which we are always “on the way” toward the fullness of the presence of God, and of living in perfect harmony with our neighbors – yet we never reach that destination in this life, although it is to be hoped that we are moving closer to that destination.
I believe that this insight is valid for us as Christians as well. We will never reach the place where we are constantly “practicing the presence of God”, to use the phrase used by the Carmelite lay brother and spiritual master Brother Lawrence, who famously said that he was as conscious of the presence of God while washing dishes as he was on his knees in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament. We may have glimpses, we may even have extended periods of this, yet we never reach the point where this is our reality twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
And we never reach the point where our whole lives are lived in perfect charity with our neighbors, live lived in full witness to peace and justice. We may strive for God’s kingdom to come on earth, but it will never be here in its fullness on earth before the eschaton.
Today’s first reading, in the book of Joshua, which appears after the Torah, tells of the arrival of the Israelites in the Promised Land. But there is a final hurdle that must be overcome before they can enter: the
And that is exactly what they did.
The Ark of the Covenant was the most sacred object in Israelites’ worship life. When not in travel, it rested in the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the Tabernacle and
In our own lives as Christians, while we will not reach our true home, the Promised Land, in this life, there are even obstacles preventing us from reaching those glimpses we are given in this life. Like the Israelites, God has provided us with an
Just as the
We are also given manna in the form of the Eucharist, and by extension all of the sacraments. We are fed week by week, or even day by day, by the Body and Blood of Christ, receiving Him into our lives, so that we may become living tabernacles, sharing Christ with all with whom we come in contact. We receive the Body of Christ, so that we may become the Body of Christ in the world.
And the rod of Aaron reminds us of the baptismal priesthood to which we are all called. As we share in the offering of our lives to God as a living sacrifice, as Christ offered his body on the altar of the Cross for the whole world, so we too receive new life, just as Christ was raised from the dead. We mediate the reconciliation of the world to God through Christ by sharing with Christ in his eternal priesthood.
As we continue our journey, may we be filled with grace to receive these gifts of Scripture, Eucharist, and Royal Priesthood that we are given in our own Ark of the Covenant, Jesus Christ, and may we be enabled to pass into the Promised Land through Christ.