Catholics often speaks a different language all together. They have these not-so-common words such as transubstantiation, Eucharist, canonization, etc. One of them is tabernacle. It’s a little box that is usually placed on the altar with a little lamp besides it to host the Eucharistic bread, the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. When catholics enter the Church, and before they sit on the pew, they will kneel before the tabernacle. And that they did for a good reason.
The Mystery of God’s Solidarity
Tabernacle comes from a Hebrew word which means dwelling place. The first thing that came to my mind when I heard this word tabernacle, or when I kneel before the tabernacle, is a scripture verse from John.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John 1:14)
In John’s Gospel the Word refers to Jesus, who is God. In that verse we read, God became flesh, and tabernacled (dwelt) among us. Whenever I look at the tabernacle, as I kneel down, I am amazed at this beautiful mystery. It’s a mystery of God who became flesh, became human, and chose to dwell among us.
In our society today, many people trying to tell us to associate with the higher class, because that can benefit us. How different it is with God! God chose to associate with the lowly. God even chose to become one of these lowly. The Creator chose to be a creation. The mystery of the Incarnation (God who became man) is shown in all its humility in that tabernacle. We kneel and worship the God who became one of us, and dwelt among us.
What should worry us then to face troubles in this life. If God is with us, who can be against us? If God now dwells among us, what should we fear of? The presence of God in the tabernacle reminds us of His ever faithful love. He never leaves us alone. He is faithful to his word,
I am with you always to the end of times. (Matthew 28:20)
When I am in the midst of turmoil, difficulties, and problems, I always run to him who is always with me. I love to sit before the tabernacled. I remember when I was in high school, my school bus will arrive pretty early, and I went to the school chapel, to sit in one of the corner, just being in the presence of God. Looking at the tabernacle reminds me of God ever faithful love and presence in my love.
To be a Tabernacle
There is another part that we need to consider when we look at the tabernacle. We are called to be one! Yes, we are called to be a tabernacle. Isn’t the scripture says, we are God’s Holy Dwelling (tabernacle)? Whenever I look at the tabernacle, as I kneel, I am reminded of my vocation as a Christian. And that is to be God’s dwelling place.
Who can be the best example of God’s tabernacle besides Mary, Mother of Jesus? God literally dwells inside her womb for nine months! She carried the Word who became flesh in her own flesh. We too are called to be that kind of tabernacle, where the Word of God became flesh in our flesh, and so we can bring God in our bodies.
I find no surprise when people venerate the saints. They carry God in their bodies. It is not the saints that amaze us, it is the Divine. We cannot be attracted with anything but God. But we are called to be saints also.
How can we carry God? How can we be God’s dwelling place? Just as Mary who said yes to God to take control of her lives, so too we need surrender our lives to God. In our Baptism, we say yes to God just as Mary said yes to God. And just as the power of the Most High overshadowed her, so too in our Baptism, the Holy Spirit overshadowed us. God dwells among us, we are God’s Holy Temple, we are His tabernacle.
But Mary didn’t stop there. She carried the Word of God, pondered it, and cherished it in her heart. In her, the Word of God became flesh. We too are called to ponder and cherish the Word of God in our heart. Too often the treasure of the Word of God is left neglected in our lives. Too often the Word did not became flesh in our flesh. But we need to imitate Mary. We need to treasure the Word of God and live it! The early Christians did not have the privileges of reading the Word of God every day. They only heard the Word of God on Sundays. And yet they cherish it throughout the week and try to live the Word of God. We too need to rediscover the Word of God today! We spent too much time on tv, handphones, computer and games! How have we neglected the duty to cherish, ponder and live the Word of God today.
The Word of God must became flesh again in our bodies. And in that way, we truly become God bearers just as Mary was. We truly become the tabernacle. Just as two thousand years ago, people are longing and waiting for God to come to them, today, many people also need God to dwell among them. And he has chosen a dwelling place none other than you and me. That is why we kneel before the tabernacle, we venerate the mystery of our calling as God’s dwelling place. Yes, God is still with us, until the end of time.