God’s Presence

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The WORD in other words (2022) by Fr Oliver Quilab SVD – Switzerland

Feast of Saints Philip and James, the Apostles – May 3

The Raiders of the Lost Ark, an epic film in the 1980s, recounts the story of an archaeologist Indiana Jones commissioned by the US government to work against the Nazi treasure hunters in a race to find the biblical artifact called the Ark of the Covenant.

This artifact has been fabled to possess supernatural powers and to hold the key to human existence. The Jewish director Spielberg was well aware of the narrative impact of this fascinating religious relic.

According to biblical accounts, the Ark of the Covenant was a wooden chest used by the ancient Hebrew people to carry the budded staff of Aaron, the tablets of the Decalogue, and a pot of manna. 

The symbolic contents of the ark remind the Jewish people of how God wants to make his abiding presence felt in the different stages of their faith journey: Aaron’s staff reminds them of God’s way; the tablets of the Ten Commandments point to the liberating truth of God; the manna reminds them of the life-giving food that God showered on them on their way to the promised land.

So when Jesus proclaimed that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life, his Jewish disciples must have been thinking immediately of the Ark of the Covenant – the staff, the tablets, the pot of manna – which encapsulated in miniature God’s deepest desire to dwell and to relate with his creation.

The string of “I am” statements in John’s Gospel, far from being exclusivist metaphysical claims, buttressed the identity of Jesus as the human face of the invisible “I am” (Yahweh). Yahweh all- inclusively loves the world that he sent his only son to accompany his people every step of the way towards the fullness of human existence.

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