Monday February 11, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13) Gospel (St. Mark 6:53-56)
In the first reading today, we hear about the transfer of the ark into the new temple which Solomon had built for the Lord. When they brought the ark of God into the temple, a cloud filled the temple that was so thick that the priests were no longer able to minister before the Lord. It was in this that Solomon recognized the Lord was pleased with the temple he had made, and that God, who came to the people on Horeb in a dark cloud, now filled the temple with that same dark cloud. And so they knew that God's presence was there. Now we also see the Lord, in the Gospel reading, going into the towns and the villages. Anyplace where He was, the people came to Him - some looking, certainly, to be healed and some wanting to hear the word that He was going to preach - but the important thing is that they wanted to be where the Lord was.
When we see the glory of the Lord filling the temple - that was the Ark of the Covenant, that was the Ten Commandments, and the temple of God was filled with His glory - imagine now what the church is when Jesus Christ is present. When we see the people in the Gospel scurrying to be where the Lord is, we have a lesson that we need to learn. We see the Old Covenant with such glory that it fills the temple to the point where the priests can no longer minister. But we have the New Covenant, which far surpasses the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was glorious: It was the Will of God; it was the Ten Commandments; it was all the promises that God had made to His people. The New Covenant is God Himself: It is Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of all the promises God made to His people, the fullness of being. And God dwells in His holy temple still.
Yet what often happens is that we just become so accustomed to God's Presence that we tend to pay little attention. The people of the towns in ancient Israel heard that the Lord was in their neighborhood, and they came to Him. They wanted to be with Him. We need to have that exact same attitude. We see the transfer of the ark up to the temple and all the excitement that was around it; the people recognized God's presence. But as time went along, they paid little attention to the Lord being present among them. It was just an everyday occurrence; the Lord was there, the ark was in the temple, and it did not mean a whole lot to them. When they had lost the ark and they had not seen it for awhile, then it was a huge issue when it came back.
I think we need to make sure that we do not lose Our Lord, that we do not lose sight of Him, that we do not take His Presence for granted; but rather, that we come before Him regularly with the same kind of joy, with the same kind of interior disposition as if the transfer was taking place now or as if the Lord had been lost and now was coming back to His temple. If we do not have that same kind of attitude, then we run the risk of falling into the other attitude that the Jewish people fell into; that is, just taking His Presence for granted and paying little attention. That, sadly, is where most Catholics are today. And we have seen from the Old Testament the result of that: the Lord's Presence will be taken away if the people do not care that He is with them. We do not want that to happen. And if we do not want it to happen, then we need to make sure that we have the greatest reverence and the greatest joy in the Presence of the Lord and the greatest gratitude that He is here with us. If we lose that, the Lord will be removed from His temple, and only then will we recognize the Gift that we had - when it is no longer there.
So while He is with us, we need to be like the people of these towns who were filled with joy to come before the Lord, who wanted to be with Him to hear His word, and even just to touch the tassel of His cloak. For us, we get to receive Him into ourselves. We need to make sure that we have the right attitude and have hearts filled with love and reverence in the Presence of Our Lord, who fills His holy temple with His glory.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.