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13th Sunday after Pentecost

Thirteenth Sunday after


Pentecost

God is spirit, not matter. We cannot see God, and so it is difficult to imagine what God is like
and to understand how near God is to us. The readings today give us 3 glimpses of God is and
how God impacts our lives.
1.In the first reading we find king Solomon's prayer as he dedicated the temple he had just built
for Yahweh, the God of Israel. In it, he states that God is everywhere in the universe and
wonders how he could be contained in a temple.
All ancient civilizations built beautiful palace-like temples to be the official residence of the gods and made
statues of their gods. People believed that their gods lived is specific places. For instance, the Greeks
believed that the gods lived on Mt. Olympus, and were also present in the temples built for them.
The Jews, on the other hand, were very careful not to describe Yahweh, their God, like the pagan gods, who
were merely enlarged images of human beings, and had all the vices and shortcoming of human beings.
For the Jews God was one and holy, which means different from anyone else. God was spirit, and was
everywhere. God was all powerful, his power was not limited by the power of other gods . Judaism, unlike
other religions, did not allow images of God, and, for the longest time, Jews did not have a temple for God.
In spite of that, the Jews were deeply aware of Gods presence among them, and the ark of the covenant
was a symbol of Gods presence. When God spoke to Moses, God would appear in a could, like ground fog,
another symbol of Gods presence. The words of God came to the people through intermediaries: Moses,
prophets, dreams, angels. Judaism forbade images of God because it did not want to materialize God.
When Solomon consecrated the Temple, a cloud enveloped the temple and the Jews saw that as a sign of
the glory of God (Gods presence among them). The priests were terrified and left the temple.
Even though Solomon believed that the cloud covering the temple was a sign of Gods presence, he knew
that since the heavens cannot contain God, certainly his the temple could not be the house of God. The
God of the universe could not be confined to one specific place. Note the expressions used in Solomons
prayer: the temple was the place where the name of the Lord dwelt, not the place where God dwelt. My
name is in front of my house on the mailbox. That makes it my house, but I am not confined there.

Thirteenth Sunday after


Pentecost

For Solomon the temple was above all the house of prayer, and he asked God to listen to the
prayers of both Jews and foreigners. Note that Solomon envisioned that all the people of the
earth would eventually worship Yahweh. Yahweh was not limited in space, nor limited to being
only the God of the Jews!

2. Paul was the one who took it upon himself to bring people from foreign nations to worship the
one and only God. His mission was to convert non-Jews to Christianity. In this passage from
the letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes a different way in which God is present to us.
For Paul God was the armor protecting them from all the dangers and threats that surrounded them.
Paul wrote this letter while under house arrest (he called himself ambassador in chains). Paul was often in
trouble during his ministry: he was arrested and held in captivity for 2 years in Caesarea Marittima, and for
another 2 years in Rome. Eventually, Paul was beheaded during Neros persecution.
Thus it is not surprising that Pauls words and the metaphors reflect a sense of impending danger: the
Ephesians needed spiritual armor to protect them from the dangers that surrounded them.
Paul, however, was more concerned about the spiritual dangers that might affect the community than about
the physical danger. In this passage, Paul emphasized: the need to be holy as God is holy. To be holy
meant to keep oneself in the right relationship with God, by avoiding sin and keeping faith in the knowledge
that God had saved them and that the Holy Spirit was among them.
Paul reminded the Ephesians, and reminds all of us, that the God of the universe, is also the personal God
who protects of each individual. Note the differences on how God is presented in these readings:
Solomon goes out of the way to emphasize that God is immense and could not be confined in space and live
in one building on earth, even in a building as magnificent as the temple of Jerusalem.
Paul, on the other hand, assures the Ephesians that God is not just a distant cosmic power, indifferent to the
needs of human beings. For Paul, God is a personal God who cares for each individual and is involved in
protecting and safeguarding each and every person who believe in God.
The message here is that God is both immense and personal. The creator of the universe, who is
everywhere, and who causes every creature to exist, but also a caring presence hears the prayers of the
people and protects each person: a personal God who is interested in what is going on in each moment of
our lives.

Thirteenth Sunday after


Pentecost

3. Finally, in the Gospel reading, God is presented as the nourishment of our souls. There is
a progression in the description of God from the God of the universe, to the personal God
who cares for each of us, to the nourishment for our souls.
Over the past few Sundays, we have been reading a rather long speech in the Gospel of John about the
Eucharist, how the bread and wine are his flesh and blood, and how it is necessary to receive the
Eucharist to achieve the eternal life of the spirit. Todays passage emphasizes the intimate connection
between the disciples who receive the Eucharist and Jesus: if we receive the Eucharist Jesus lives in us
and is connected to us in the same way as Jesus is connected to the Father in heaven
Once again, Jesus is drawing a distinction between material life and spiritual life. Eating food nourishes
us, but our material life is limited. The ancestors of the Jews who ate manna in the desert died.
However, the bread and wine of the Eucharist are his body and blood and they nourish our spiritual
lives. If we believe in Jesus and participate in the Eucharistic meal, even though our bodies will die, our
spirits will survive and will live on in the kingdom of God.
His audience was having problems understanding this. He had just multiplied bread and fed 5,000
people. They wanted more free bread and free fish, not a sermon about feeding their souls. This
notion of drinking blood and eating flesh was repulsive (offensive) to them. So most of them walked
away. There is a reference to Judas here. He did not believe, but stuck around anyway.
Only the 12 apostles stayed with Jesus, even though they were puzzled and confused. Faith requires us
to accept that God is a mystery we will never be able to comprehend. We have the choice to accept
Gods immensity and out limitations, or to walk away when things get complicated .
Jesus asked his disciples if they wanted to leave. Peter spoke up for the group, where should we go?
You are the only one who has words of eternal life.

4. Todays readings are about perceptions of God, and how God interacts with us.

The reading from 1st Kings tells us that God is everywhere and cannot be confined in space.
Ephesians reminds us that God is a person who cares for each of us. We should trust in God
The Gospel tells us that in the Eucharist Jesus is God who nourishes our spiritual life
But this God who is all over the universe, yet so close to us to be our personal protector, and even to
be our spiritual food is and will always continue to be a mystery, even to those who believe.