Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments, and be ready by the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” (Exodus 19:10-11)*_
In today’s first reading, God instructs the people of Israel to consecrate themselves and wash their garments to prepare to behold His face. This experience sends a strong message: To meet God, one must prepare by cleansing oneself internally (of sins) and externally (of dirt). In other words, meeting God demands being in a State of Grace.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8). The Psalmist further corroborates: “Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.” (Psalm 73:1). The book of Proverbs adds: “Those who love a pure heart and are gracious in speech will have the king as a friend.” (Proverbs 22:11).
The book of Hebrews throws light on this internal and external consecration when it says: “Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22). St. Paul also alludes to this cleansing when he warned against participating in the Holy Eucharist unworthily. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-28)
Does this mean that God does not admit sinners in His presence? No. Jesus received sinners and ate with them. He added that He had not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. So why do we need to consecrate ourselves to see God? It is a mark of respect, an expression of our reverence for God, who is sinless, faultless and spotless.
Who amongst us would like to visit our community’s king in rags? Not to mention the Governor of our state or other high-ranking Government officials? If we try to put up our best to meet human beings, what is wrong with going to confession and taking a bath before attending Mass? If we respect God, why do we make noise (engage in vulgar conversations), play with our phones or transact business inside the church?
Jesus cleansed the temple because people turned it into a market; they didn’t prepare (consecrate themselves) for God’s presence. (Cf. Luke 19:46). This lack of preparation is why Jesus preferred to speak in parables. (“Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it”). Jesus knew that some people’s minds were so cluttered that regardless of how much He taught them, they would not understand.
Jesus said: “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.” (Matthew 13:14-16). This happens when we fail to properly prepare ourselves by cleansing our hearts and garments.
When next you are going to the church, endeavour to prepare! If possible, go for Confession to be in a state of grace. Dress decently. Have an idea of the readings for Mass/Service. Be seated for some quiet meditation time at least fifteen minutes before it starts. Listen attentively to the words and prayers during Mass/Service. Join in the singing; you are not there to be entertained. Be conscious of God’s presence throughout. If you do this, you will feel something in the depths of your being.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, give me the grace to approach your presence with fear and trembling. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Bible Study: Exodus 19:1-2,9-11,16-20, Matthew 13:10-17).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu