In the first reading for today Jacob arrives at a Cannanite shrine located at Luz. He does not arrive there thinking of it as a religious place. For him it is simply a stopping point. He takes one of its stones and places it under his head as a kind of pillow. That night he has the dream in which God makes the great promise to him.
When he awakes he exclaims, "“Truly, the LORD is in this spot, although I did not know it!”
One of the fine lines it seems we have to walk has to do with where we believe God is present. Related to this is the matter of how God is present.
For us as Catholics, it is not simply a matter of saying, God is in this place and God is not in that place. God is present in different ways in different places.
At the center of our faith is the unique presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
There is the presence of God in his word.
There is the presence in each of baptized, and in a special way in those ordained to the priesthood.
When the Catholic Church speaks of these presences we do not do so in an exclusive way, as if to say God is present here and no where else. While at particular moments in history we have failed to live our teaching, the church has consistently held that we cannot limit God.
Today, as we mark 235 years since the U.S. Declaration of Independence which is rooted in a belief in God and natural law, we find ourselves having to interact with non-Christian religions, and particularly Islam more than ever before. What should our attitude toward Muslims, and all non-Christians, especially those who live here as Americans be?
The Church's 1965 Declaration on Non-Christian Religions(Nostra Aetate) gives us some fairly simple guidance:
The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.
Like Jacob we may find signs of the presence of God in places we do not expect.