Today’s question is a very important one which may naturally come to any person’s mind. The presence of God to the people seems to be more one-to-one and real in the Old Testament times and not now, why? Is it true?
Moses Never Saw the Face of God!?
The Old Testament is the account of the people of Israel’s experience of God. Some members of the people of Israel had a very special experience of God, such as Moses and the prophets. They had a sense that God was speaking to them in a special way and using them to speak for God to the rest of the people. All of these people were understood to have a very close relationship with God. God called them and communicated to the people through them. The Old Testament experiences of God seems to be more evident and close to nature. But how real was that experience of God?
God spoke to the prophets of Israel through visions and dreams, but to Moses He spoke, “not in dark sayings,” but “plainly.” In other words, God, Who never showed His face to Moses (Exodus 33:20), nevertheless allowed Moses to see “some unmistakable evidence of His glorious presence” (Jamieson, 1997), and spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (33:11), i.e., He spoke to Moses plainly, directly, etc.
God Walked with Us!?
As Christians we believe that Jesus, a person in the Trinity, had an even closer relationship with God than Moses or the prophets. On the basis of what Jesus said and did, and on the basis of his death and being raised to life again, the early church came to understand Jesus as the Son of God, indeed, as God in human form. If God spoke to the people of Israel and to all humanity through Moses and the prophets, he spoke even more powerfully to all men and women through Jesus.
Jesus not only spoke the word of God, he was the Word of God. As John the evangelist says at the beginning of his gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. God visited humanity through Jesus in a way that was more wonderful and definite than any previous visitation of God to humanity, because Jesus is the Son of God.
- We can say, Jesus is the Sacrament of God, because God presented himself to us in Jesus Christ.
Presence of Jesus Today
As Christians we believe that God who visited us through Jesus of Nazareth continues to visit us through the same Jesus, now risen Lord. Matthew the evangelist gives the child Jesus the name Emmanuel, which means God-is-with-us. The risen Jesus remains, Emmanuel, God-with-us today.
- Where do we find Emmanuel, God-with-us today?
- Where does God visit us through the risen Jesus today?
We believe that we encounter the risen Lord above all in and through the church, the community of those who believe in Jesus and struggle to walk in his way.
- The Church is the sacrament of Christ because the Church is presenting Jesus to us.
Bodily Presence is the Real Presence
St Paul calls the church the body of Christ, because the risen Christ expresses himself today in and through the church. God continues to visit humanity in and through the body of Christ, the church. If Jesus dwells within the church as his body, he is present in a very special way when the church gathers to listen to the word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist. The risen Lord is present to us in his word and in the Eucharist. When we listen to the word of God and when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, God continues to visit us through his Son.
- The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Christ and the Church because the Eucharist is presenting Jesus to us.
We are sent out from the Eucharist to live as members of Christ’s body, to give ourselves to others as Christ gave himself to us. When we try to live as Jesus lived, and to love as Jesus loved, the risen Lord visits others through us in a very tangible way – God visits others through us in a very tangible way. If the risen Lord is present to us in his word and in the Eucharist, he also wants to be present to us, to visit us, in and through each other.
- We are sacraments of the Eucharist because we carry Jesus in our body and present to others by our good deeds.
(Written by Fr Martin Hogan)
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