Thursday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
From the Dragnet to the Dwelling Place
Readings: Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38; Psalm 84:3, 4, 5-6a and 8a, 11; Matthew 13:47-53
As we continue our meditation on the coming of God’s kingdom, our readings today offer us two further metaphors for our consideration. The first is found in the gospel. Here, the kingdom is likened to a dragnet that gathers in a haul of all kinds. The second is to be found in the first reading and the psalm. Here we are invited to consider: How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of hosts.
It is perhaps useful to acknowledge and to reflect more deeply upon the inherent tension between these two metaphors. If the dragnet highlights the apparently indiscriminate inclusiveness of the kingdom, at least in the initial stages of its advent, the dwelling place underscores its inherent selectivity. The dragnet hauls in everything. But not everyone is fit to enter into the dwelling place of God. And we will only finally discover who is fit and who is not at the end of time, when the great separation is carried out. At this point in the history of salvation, it may seem like it doesn’t take very much to be included among the contents of the dragnet. We may, for example, already be baptized and may even go faithfully to Mass every Sunday. But where will we be on the Last Day? And where are we now? Are we content merely to remain in the dragnet? Or are we truly seeking entrance into God’s dwelling place? And, if so, what can we do?
Perhaps the first is to ponder upon the awesome mystery that our readings remind us of today. In the first reading, God actually comes and pitches God’s tent among the people. God makes God’s dwelling place among them. For us who are Christian, this takes place especially through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Word who became flesh and made his dwelling among us (see John 1:14). This is a cause of great joy and consolation for us. For now, in Christ, we all have access to God’s dwelling place. Now, because the Word pitched his tent among us, we believe in faith that it is possible to encounter God in every time and place and circumstance. Because Christ passed from death into the new life, even our own experiences of suffering and death can become doorways into the dwelling place of God. But having access doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be fit to enter. For that something more is needed. We find a hint of what this might be in the experience of the Israelites in the first reading.
At every stage of their journey, we are told, whenever the cloud rose… they would resume their march. If the cloud did not rise, they waited… At every stage of their journey through the wilderness, the Israelites let God determine for them whether they marched or waited. At every stage of their journey, they made the Tent of Meeting, God’s dwelling place, the central focus of their attention. Are we not invited somehow to do the same? Are we not called to seek and find the presence of Christ in every situation and circumstance of our lives? Is this not the way in which we can move from the dragnet into the dwelling place of God?
How might we be helped to do so today?