Homily August 3rd, 2023 

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time – Odd Years – Mt 13:47-53

            Today’s first reading focuses on the Dwelling place that Moses erected in the desert for the Ark of the Covenant. When completed, God comes into the Dwelling and covers it with a cloud. The cloud rises and leads the Israelites during the day, and even gives them shade, as Psalm 105 recounts. However, during the night, the cloud is particularly impressive: fire appears inside of it, and it illumines the darkness of night.[1] It’s interesting that the text emphasizes that the cloud was seen “by the whole house of Israel in all the stages of their journey,” that is, by everyone, at all times. Each day, they either saw it stay put or rise, and every night, everyone, without exception, saw it amidst the darkness. It seems fairly obvious that, in particular, a fiery cloud in the night would be seen by everyone, but, for some reason, God wanted that point emphasized.

            There are two points that are worth considering: first, what was the Israelites’ reaction to this presence? We know they complained, doubted, and at times even broke faith with God. This miraculous presence, which everyone saw, left little impact on many of them; they let themselves be overwhelming by the things they suffered. Even though God’s presence stared them in the face, day after day, many refused to believe. This was their reaction. Secondly, in Exodus 13 we read that the Israelites could travel both during the day and during the night; they had to be ready to move forward at any time. Yet sometimes, the cloud didn’t lift up and go forward; in these times, God simply asked them to stay put. He asked them to remain in His presence. They didn’t have to do anything, or go anywhere. They just needed to stay and trust.

Both of these points are repeated, day after day, in our own lives. We, too, in our churches, have a little flame next to the tabernacle, to indicate God’s presence within. Everyone can see that flame, at any time they come into the church, but only a few really grasp what it means. As Saint Charles de Foucauld wrote, we know that our lives on this earth are not meant to be easy. “We are pilgrims and strangers on earth,” he said. “Pilgrims sleep in tents and sometimes cross deserts, but the thought of their homeland makes them forget everything else.”[2]  In our earthly journey, how do we respond to suffering? With complaining, like the Israelites? Secondly, are we content to do whatever God asks of us, even if that means just sitting in His presence? Of course, this can mean sitting in His presence in prayer, but also in our lives: it can mean waiting patiently for Him to reveal His will. As Saint Claude de la Colombière once wrote, “Our Lord requires a great sacrifice of me, and that is to do nothing if it is His will.” “Our Lord requires a great sacrifice of me, and that is to do nothing if it is His will.” That is to simply sit in His presence and wait, since with God, time is not wasted.

Today, let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, who is revered under the title of Our Lady of the Cloud, for the grace to accept whatever God sends us, and to wait upon His will, even if that means sitting silently in His presence.[3]


[1] See Ex. 14:20: “So that it came between the Egyptian army and that of Israel. And when it became dark, the cloud illumined the night; and so the rival camps did not come any closer together all night long.”

[2] Ronda Chervin, Quotable Saints, 33.

[3] La Virgen de la Nube, a devotion in Peru and Ecuador.

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