Accompanying People in their Journey

2 August 2007 Blessed Peter Favre SJ
Exodus 40, 16-21, 34-38 Accompanying People in their Journey

In unending detail, the remaining chapter of Exodus, including the first reading, tells us Yahweh’s instruction to Moses about his dwelling, the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. The Lord gave Moses the furnishing of the tabernacle in which He would dwell: like the Lifestyle channel giving us tips on how to refurbish our room. And finally, when the Lord dwelt in the tabernacle, He made His presence felt by the ancient symbols of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.

Two points are made very clear. As the commandments given to Moses, God revealed the truth about himself to the Israelites. We know what God wants and what God wills because it is concretely written in the commandments. Thus, God wanted Himself to be accessible and available to everyone. In ancient times, the dwelling of the gods is in the mountains: as Mt. Olympus for the Greeks and the Romans, as Mt. Sinai to the Israelites. But this time, the climate has changed. God is transferring from the mountain to His people: He will dwell in their midst as they continue their journey to the Promise Land. For the Israelites, the presence of the Lord boosts their energy and their morale. You see, the journey from Egypt to the Promise Land took 40 years. In these forty years, we know from Scripture that they encountered disappointments, frustrations, helplessness, and abandonment. But it is understandable. Put yourself in their shoes, and you will understand. In the middle of these trying times, the presence of God --- and the people we love --- helps a lot.

Finally, verse 38, the final verse is crucial: “For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.” The tabernacle, therefore, becomes a portable sanctuary which accompanied Israel on its journey (Numbers 9, 15-23). The tabernacle in their midst becomes a great reminder and assurance to the wandering Israelite: that despite their bad track record, the Lord continues to love them; that despite the long journey, the very presence of God accompanies them.

The saint of the day, Blessed Peter Favre, is one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He is one of the founders of the Jesuits. His main attribute is his cura personalis or the personal care he gives to his fellow Jesuits. He would go on long journeys to visit and talk to fellow Jesuits assigned in different mission houses. In a way, Blessed Peter Favre’s life is like Yahweh who accompanies people by their abiding love and presence.

In our lifetime journey, we may reflect on the presence of God in our lives. Who among our friends and family embody the presence of God for us? When were the times when we felt His presence? When were the times when we felt that He was not with us in our journey?

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