GOD’S DWELLING-PLACE

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Homily for Friday of the 34th Wk in Ordinary Time, 25 Nov 2022, Lk 21:29-33

For today’s homily, let us take our inspiration from today’s Responsorial Psalm, Ps 84, which speaks about “God’s dwelling place”. You might be more familiar with it as a liturgical song. It says,

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord mighty God, Lord of all… Even the lowly sparrow finds a home for her brood

And the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay here young in your altars my king and my God…” (Ps 84:2,4)

What I like most is the part in the psalm that compares the human soul to a “lonely sparrow” that “finds a home for her brood” and a “swallow” that builds “a nest for herself where she may lay her young” in God’s altars. Very poetic.

You know, what comes to my mind is what I see every night when I pray the rosary while walking around our cathedral grounds. Every now and then I see people getting off from jeepneys,obviously coming from work, looking tired and hungry, some of them clutching a plastic bag of food items they probably still have to cook when they get home. It’s 7:30pm; it must have taken them more than an hour by public transportation.

But what I find most touching is that many of them still take time to drop by the Church, just when the Church doors are already locked, and the security guard has already closed the main gate. Some of them dare to ask the security guard to please let them into the patio, just to stand before the closed main door of the cathedral for about 10 minutes.

You can literally see how their tired faces are rested afterwards. Some wonderful things seem to happen within those short ten minutes. Some of them don’t even ask to enter the patio; they just pause and stand outside, before the iron grill fence. Sometimes they come as a whole family riding on a motorbike. The father usually parks the bike right there at the sidewalk, removes his helmet and holds hands with his wife as both parents rest their hands on their little children’s shoulders. They bow their heads quietly, sometimes even resting their foreheads on the iron grill fence.

It is when I witness such tender moments that I am most inclined to hear the song playing inside me, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O lord, mighty God, Lord of hosts…” (Ps 84:2)

But I am sure some people have the same longing for God’s dwelling and don’t know where to find it. People have even attempted to “build a house for God” like King David. Remember that passage in 2 Sam 7, when he felt guilty about living in a palace while the ark of the covenant was kept in a shabby tent? Like David, people who presumptuously build houses for God often forget the Psalm that says, “If the Lord does not build the house, then in vain do the builders labor…” (Ps 127) No, we don’t “build a house for God”; it is God who builds a house for us. It’s the other way around.

We call God’s dwelling by many names. Our Gospel today calls it “God’s kingdom” and reminds us that we have to be alert about its coming. He says we will know somehow, when “God’s kingdom is near.” (Lk 21:31) There will be signs that will point to its presence in our midst.

The prophet Isaiah once said to people who tried very hard to build a house for God, “What house can you build for me?

Where is the place of my rest?” He notes how often people forget that the heavens are “God’s throne” and the earth is “God’s footstool”, that it is God who has made all these things, and that God’s preferred dwelling is “the one with a humble and contrite heart”, the one “who trembles at (God’s) word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)

When I was a young boy, I remember seeing a movie, a musical entitled OLIVER. It is about an orphan named Oliver, who sometimes longs to see the face of his mother whom he has never met. He looks out of the window at night to wait for the moon to rise and shine in the dark. Then he sings “Where is Love? Does it fall from sky above? Is it underneath the willow tree that I’ve been dreaming of?”

Since we Christians believe that God is Love, perhaps we can change the word “Love” in the song and replace it with “God” and say, as in the second verse of Oliver’s song, “Where is God… whom I close my eyes to see? Will I ever know the sweet hello that’s meant for only me?”

Our first reading ends with a beautiful vision of the coming of God’s dwelling among us. Before he reaches the final chapter of his book, which is the very last book of the Bible, John says In Rev 21, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. God will dwell with them and they will be God’s people and God will always be with them. God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4)



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