Mass is almost over now that we have received Communion; in a few minutes the feast will be over. This is a good time to look at how a Catholic church helps the feast take place.
But first, does anyone know who Balaam [on the board] is? No? How about Balaam’s Ass [on the board]? (giggles & snickers) No? OK then: Balaam was a pagan who lived when the Israelites were getting established in the Promised Land after their 40 years of wandering in the desert. He was famous for blessing and cursing people, and making it stick. Well, the Israelites had been whipping their local enemies in battle so thoroughly that Balak, the king of Moab, wanted to pay Balaam to curse the Israelites. He didn’t want to be next on their whipping schedule. Y-H-W-H (don’t say it!) told Balaam not to visit Balak, but the Book of Numbers says, “Balaam rose in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.”(more giggles & snickers) OK, what’s ‘ass’ mean? Donkey? Yes. Now this is your last chance to act like babies when I say ‘ass’…ready? Ass. (fewer giggles & snickers) Alright, that was it. No more giggling like 5-year-olds. “But God grew angry because he went; and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary.” An angel blocked the way to Moab. “And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; and the ass turned aside out of the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the ass, to turn her into the road.” [I act all this out] “Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall, and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again.” Poor donkey, she’s doing Balaam a favor! “Then the angel of the LORD went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; and in anger Balaam beat the ass with his stick.” Now I love this: “Then the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the ass, “…I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face.” Balaam decided to get himself some humility in a hurry. Trick question: why was Balaam riding the donkey with his eyes closed? His eyes weren’t closed! No? It says, “the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel.” Doesn’t that mean his eyes were shut? No, it means he couldn’t see the angel until God let him. Oh. But the donkey saw the angel the whole time…how come? No guesses. Tell me, can we see water wash sins off a baby at Baptism? No. Can a saint see it happen? Yes. Why? No guesses? Put it this way: why can’t we see it? ‘Cause we’re sinners! Yes, sin makes us…blind! Yes! So Balaam couldn’t see the angel…’cause he was a sinner! Yes; but Balaam’s ass could see the angel because…animals don’t sin? Maybe so, the story doesn’t say. But remember in one of Isaiah’s Christmas prophecies, he said the people of Israel didn’t know their master, but the the ox and ass did.
Now, back to the feast, listen again to another bit of Isaiah you’ve heard before: “And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.” Are ‘all people’ sitting under a giant blanket? No, it’s not real. So what is covering them, what sort of veil is it? Is it sin? Yes, at Isaiah’s feast the veil of sin will be “destroyed” so people will be able to see God clearly. And if sin is destroyed, where must the feast be? In Heaven. Yes.
Now let’s look at this handout again, you’ve seen it before:
What’s the first plan? Moses’ Meeting Tent. Yes…did Moses design it? No, God did. Yes, God gave instructions about every detail of the Tent: “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. According to all that I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.” God showed Moses the heavenly pattern of all the stuff that went in the tent, even including little things like the candlesticks. And if God “dwelled” in the tent, then it was…his house? Yes, he lived in a tent because his people, the Israelites, lived in tents.
Somebody tell me, what’s a tavern? Is it like a bar? Yes. Up North, like in Pennsylvania, people will say ‘tavern’ when we say ‘bar’; I think tavern sounds more civilized. Anyway, taberna [on the board] is a Latin word for house. Yes? Why does it have a b? Because b‘s and v‘s sound almost the same in some languages. Somebody digame, como se llama twenty in Español? Somebody say twenty in Spanish. Veinte [on the board]! Yes. See, it’s spelled with a v, but listen to the sound, please say it again. Veinte. Does it sound like a b or a v? Kind of in between. Yes.
So taberna means house, and a tabernaculum [adding to taberna] is a little house, or a tent or a log cabin. Where an English Bible says ‘tent,’ a Latin Bible will say tabernaculum. What word do we get from that? Tabernacle. Yes. We have a tabernacle in church! Yes, good, we’re getting to that. The whole meeting tent was the tabernacle, God’s dwelling. Now look at the Holy Spaces where only the priests could go: what separates them? A veil. Yes. Is it a real veil? Yes! Right, it was a beautiful curtain that prevented everyone from seeing what? The Ark! Yes. Only one person could go behind the veil…who? The High Priest? Yes. The other priests could tootle around the rest of the Meeting Tent, but they couldn’t go past the veil. So who would offer the most important sacrifices to Y-H-W-H? The High Priest. Yes; he offered sacrifices for the whole nation, all the people of Israel, right in front of God. Was God there physically? Well, God doesn’t have a body. Right; but Y-H-W-H’s presence was right above the Ark, between the cherubim. What’s ark mean? A container! Yes, good. And what was in the Ark? Come on, y’all know this. Umm…the Ten Commandments? Yes, and…the miracle bread…manna! Yes, a pot of manna; and Aaron’s staff. Are those things God? Ummm, no? Right; God wouldn’t live in a box. God’s stuff is in the box. But the Israelites had super-respect for that box of stuff.
Now look at Solomon’s Temple: it’s bigger and nicer and more permanent than the Meeting Tent; but it has the same pattern as the Tent. Who designed the pattern? God! Yes. Is that a real veil? Yes! Right; just like in the Tent. And look at the Church: tell me about the pattern. It’s the same! Yes, almost.
In the New Testament there’s an Epistle to the Hebrews…what’s Epistle mean? Letter. Yes, so it’s a letter written to Jews who had become Christians. I think they might’ve been worried about not going to the Temple in Jerusalem every year and sacrificing a Passover Lamb. The Epistle explains to them that it’s not necessary anymore, because “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God…who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man, but by the Lord.” So where is the “true tent”? In Heaven! Yes; tell me, who is the High Priest in the church? Jesus. Yes, and where is the High Priest? In Heaven. Yes, he’s the slain Lamb, a perfect Lamb, who offers himself right in front of the Father’s throne in Heaven, in the true tent. So the Hebrew Christians didn’t need the Temple priests to sacrifice and offer lambs for them anymore. And how long will Jesus be a High Priest? Umm…forever? Yes, at least until the Final Judgment in Revelations. The Epistle says we have “a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the veil, where Jesus [has] become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” What’s the deal with Melchizedek? He offered bread and wine! Yes; like...Jesus! Yes, at…the Last Supper! Yes! Y’all are too smart!
At Mass, can we see Jesus offer himself in Heaven? No. Right; now tell me about the veil on the church plan. It’s not in the church! Right; is it a real veil? No, it’s sin! Yes, sin veiled Balaam’s eyes from seeing the angel, and sin veils us from seeing what’s in Heaven. But if we become saints, and free from sin…then we can see. Yes. So the pattern in a church stops at the veil of sin, and the rest of the offering of the sacrifice takes place beyond that veil, in...Heaven, yes which is the true tent, not an earthly copy.
Now tell me about the Ark in the church plan. There isn’t an Ark, there’s a tabernacle. Yes; what’s the difference? No guesses? What’s ark mean? Container! Yes, in this case, a box. And what goes in a box…people? No, stuff! Yes. Is Jesus stuff? No, a person! Yes, and if Jesus wants to dwell with us in church, would you have him live in a box? No! What do people live in? A house? Yes, so Jesus…has to have a house. Yes, but he doesn’t take up much room under the appearance of bread; he doesn’t need a full-size taberna, but a…tabernacle! Yes, a “little house.” Why do tabernacles often look like little houses? Because Jesus lives there. Yes, as the Bible might say, Jesus dwells with us in the Tabernacle.
Now in the Tent and the Temple the Jews had great respect for the box of God’s stuff. But what should get more respect: God’s stuff in a box, or God himself in his little house? God in his little house! Yes, so always behave in church with the respect that Jesus deserves.
Now after people eat a feast, what needs to be washed and put away? The dishes? Yes; who does them…the guests? No, the person who invited them. Yes, the host or hostess. Well, after Communion, the priest does the dishes. When he’s done, Jesus is put back into his little house, and we all sit down. Following a short prayer and any announcements, the priests blesses us and says, “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” Somebody digame how to say Mass in Spanish. Misa! Yes [on the board]. It comes from this Latin word: missa [on the board]. At the end of Mass in Latin, the priest says “Ite, missa est” [on the board]. It means “Go, it’s the dismissal.” That’s where we get the word Mass, from the dismissal. And the people say…thanks be to God! Yes. Then what happens? Well, we leave? Yes, the Mass is over.
And our year of 6th grade Wednesday Sunday School is over too, along with all your misery. I do hope y’all learned a thing or two while y’all suffered so dreadfully. And for the rest of your lives, if you have a question about being Catholic, or the Bible, or the Mass, or whatever, get a hold of me and I’ll find you an answer.
Before class is “dismissed” I want to draw one last picture that pulls together a lot of what we learned this year. [I draw] What’s this? The altar. Yes, which is also a...table…yes. It represents…Mass? Yes…and here’s the priest, who stands in for...Jesus. Yes. Now around the Mass I want y’all to name six things we learned that tie into the Mass. The Last Supper! Yes, and? A man who offered bread and wine…Melchizedek! Yes, and…blood on the doorposts…Passover! Yes….miracle bread in the desert...Manna! Yes…miracle bread…Jesus…apostles…Loaves & Fishes! Yes, and last of all…we learned it tonight…wedding…Wedding Feast! of…the Lamb! who is… Jesus! Yes, good children!
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Now and Forever!