The guiding presence of God

By | February 21, 2013

The opening reading for today has God come to Abraham as a smoking fire pot and flaming torch. God enters a pack of solidarity with Abraham pledging that he will be with him through his journey of faith. Abraham believes God and this is credited to him as righteousness. This shows that God will be able to save us outside of strict adherence to the Jewish law. He will do this in Christ.

The little smoking pot and flaming torch will grow into the great pillar of fire by night and towering column of smoke by day that will lead the Hebrew people through the desert as they flee their slavery in Egypt. These are the images of the presence of God. He leads and we follow. This ancient imagery takes me back to the Norbertine Abbey in De Pere. The Abbey is a striking and beautiful place and in its crypt is housed the National Shrine of St. Joseph, equally moving and provoking of prayer. But what I remember most is their Blessed Sacrament tabernacle. I prayed in front of the eucharistic presence and was captured by the image of the pillar of fire and the column of smoke on its gold doors.
This is a powerful visual reminder that the God of Israel is still with us and is leading us in Christ. Just as God led Abraham in his journey and then the Israelites through the desert, so he is now leading us. God is leading me, them, all of us home to the Promised Land with him, which lies in heaven and within.

The God of Israel animates many to be his pillar of fire and column of smoke. The church is our foremost visual manifestation of the hidden God. Through the church, especially through union with our Holy Father the pope, we are led and guided through the desert of this often fallen world. The saints too provide worthy guides of lives that grew into such union with God that they themselves became the blazing flame of God. Who in your life has become this mirror image of the pillar of fire and tower of smoke?

Lent is a time for growth in union and friendship with God not only for my own sake but for others. Fellowship with God enables him to use us as his guiding presence for others in the desert of the world.  We are “tabernacles of God the Holy Spirit” when we are in union with him. This is not old-fashioned talk. It is true when we are teaching about God, but also and perhaps even more recognized when we are revealing him in how we love, how we forgive and how we suffer. Each generation needs these pillars of fire and columns of smoke.

Opportunities for Holiness
1. Pray near a tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament asking God to guide you through the challenges, and choices you are facing.
2.  Ask God to strengthen and bless those in your life who have led you, especially in times of darkness or in the heavy choices of the day.

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish and St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Green Bay.

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