When God revealed His presence and made known His name to Moses at the burning bush, He began a new way of accompanying His people. During the years they wandered in the desert they were led by His presence in “cloud and a pillar of fire.” (Ex 13:22) He gave Moses the tablets of the law, and these, along with the blossomed rod of Aaron and the manna which appeared each day in the desert, were placed in the Ark of the Covenant, which the priests carried wherever His people went. On their way to the Promised Land as they carried the Ark, when the soles of their feet touched the water of the Jordan, it ceased to flow; “the water flowing down from upstream halted in a solid bank.” (Jos 3:13)
When King Solomon built the Temple, even though God told his father, David, that He does not dwell in houses made by human hands, but would instead build a house for David, He was nonetheless, pleased, and as the Ark was brought to its resting place in the holy of holies “the cloud filled the temple of the Lord so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the Lord’s glory had filled the temple.” (1 Kg 8:11)
In the fullness of time, shepherds had seen a star at its rising…which came to rest over the place where the child was…On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother…They prostrated themselves, did him homage and then opened their treasures to offer him gifts. (Mt 2:9-11) When Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John, upon coming out of the water the heavens were torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descended upon Him. A voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mk: 1:9-11)
In a radically different way, on the day before He suffered, Jesus took bread into his hands, broke and gave it to His disciples and said: “take and eat, this is my body.” Likewise, He took the cup…and said “do this in memory of me.” (Lk 22) God’s way of accompanying His people, like the first time He spoke to Moses, would never be the same from this night forward. His self-giving love, manifest in Eucharist, would be a new manna, a bread of love, which priests offer each day throughout the world.
It is hard to imagine, brothers, that we who in the past were led by a
“cloud and pillar of fire,” who carried the Ark, ministered in the Temple and beheld his glory, and who today, by privilege of ordination, hold Him in our very hands, could do anything less than honor this awesome presence. Do we realize this gift? Do we take His presence for granted? Can we spend an hour each night of our retreat in Eucharistic Adoration? Can we bear to consider our unworthiness? Has our share in His priesthood become routine? Do we possess within ourselves a spirit of awe and wonder at our lofty place between heaven and earth? Do we fulfill our priestly duties with love and devotion? Do we pray with reverence and “behind clouds of perfumed smoke cower, and dare not even glimpse the power that now descends over our altar?” (Liturgy of the Announcement to Mary)
Brothers, this week we break from routine, accuse ourselves before God, confess our sins, admit our faults, spend time with Christ in this chapel, make amends and start anew. But we need God’s grace, one another’s support, and the prayer of the Blessed Virgin.
Whether it was the inspiration of a priest, our parents’ encouragement, the support of a friend, or simply God’s grace working overtime in our soul that led us to this privilege place of priesthood, may we honor this gift by drawing ever nearer to the One who thundered from the heavens and said “this is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests.”(Mk 1: 9-11) May He also be pleased with us, His priest sons, and accompany us in Eucharistic presence. May we enter once again into the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and may the prayer of the Virgin Mary and all the Church be with us. A blessed retreat to each of you.
+Gregory J. Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)