Monday, July 15, 2013
Where Is God? II
I think perhaps that is one of the most asked questions of all time: “Where is God?” Most often it is asked in a particular circumstance: Where is He at in my suffering? Where is He at when cruelty occurs in the world? Where is He at when people have no one else to turn to and they call to Him?
And they don’t hear Him answer.
Most peoples in the history of mankind have by their nature yearned for and believed in some sort of God, whatever they named Him. It is only when they get down to a “seeing is believing” mindset that they get more confused. They act like the apostle Thomas, who said: “I will never believe without probing the nail prints in His hands.” (Jn 20:19-31) They say “prove it to me so I can understand” even as they DO understand that God, who is so huge in being, cannot possibly be comprehended by their small mind. Yet they persist because they believe that they alone are in control of their life, and of what they are to believe is true. They might as well be saying: “I will never believe in an ocean liner unless I can hold it in my hand,” knowing all the while that is impossible. Some things are just too heavy for us to lift with our hands, or with our minds.
I was blessed to be raised in a Catholic family. I was taught what I could understand about God --- and what I could still believe in faith, even if I didn’t understand it, or couldn’t see it (or lift it). But that basic understanding of WHAT or WHO God is was clouded (in my youth) on the question of WHERE God is.
Catholics are taught he is present, in a manner, in all of His creation; He is in all men who are body and spirit, and He is in His Word, and most especially He is in the Eucharist. I was taught those things and I believed them in a distracted way, kind of like I believe water is good for you, but it is only on a hot day that I notice my thirst and more appreciate my need for water --- and the blessing that it is there for me. For much of my younger days, that is how I generally believed in God.
Suddenly, like in a flash, my visit to Medjugorje changed all that for me. While there on that pilgrimage, I suddenly KNEW that God was present in the Eucharist, and in His Word, and in the mass I attend with members of His Body. And in the years since my visit to Medjugorje, my appreciation of His love, as shown by His presence, has grown. I have a firm knowledge of WHAT and WHO God is, and I have a very firm perception of WHERE He is, and how I can see Him, if not with my eyes, then with my heart. Often, I can feel His presence.
I think of God’s presence as similar to the presence of light coming from a large light bulb. Attached to the switch controlling the light bulb is a rheostat, which I control. The switch has no off setting; the light can only be varied in brightness. Turned to its highest setting, the light is so bright you cannot avoid noticing it; it is so bright you cannot look at it. It is so bright it casts off a heat which warms the room. Turning the rheostat to its lowest setting, the light bulb dims so that you don’t even notice it is there. Shadows disappear and everything seems dull, colorless, and hard to see. And in the darkness you have to feel your way along, relying on yourself alone, kind of guessing the way. Sometimes, like Thomas, we might ask: “Where are you, God?” But then we walk around without seeing Him, never really looking up to see that He is still there in the bulb never goes out. And some of us, as we walk around, have forgotten (or perhaps never knew) where the rheostat is. And things always seem dark.
The readings at mass this past Sunday seemed to remind me that God never left us alone in the dark, with no way of finding Him. Moses said in Deuteronomy 30 that God’s voice “is not too mysterious and remote for you. … (It is) already in your mouths and in your hearts.” And Psalm 19 said: “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” And if we need to see to believe, Colossians 1 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God.” And later we heard in the Gospel from Luke 10 the question: Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And we heard the answer: You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus then goes on to speak the parable of the Good Samaritan, and answers the question of who is your neighbor, and tells how you are to love him by giving of yourself.
Eternal life is something which was merited for us by Jesus Christ, and is offered to us, but we can choose, by our actions (what must I do) whether to accept the offer or not. And the choice has to do with who and how we choose to love. And last (and least important) on the list of choices, is loving ourselves.
We can wander around by ourselves, confident that we know the way we should go in our lives, but if we walk alone we are walking with the rheostat turned fully down, in darkness. It may still be possible for us to attain eternal life, but we also can easily stumble and fall in the darkness. To find our way, we need to know “Where is God”. The last step in Jesus’ answer of what me must do, love your neighbor, is actually the first step, the lowest step, we might take toward eternal life. It is like turning up the rheostat a bit and suddenly seeing those around us --- we don’t necessarily appreciate it, but we are seeing them as they truly are, and loving them because of the light we now see. The light is from God, the light bulb, but we will see the light as coming from them --- and in truth He is present in them in some manner, even as He is present in us. Loving our neighbor gets us on the path to heaven more surely than wandering around in the dark, but unless we become aware of the full brightness of God, and He shines in our heart and all of our being, unless He is our strength and helping shape our thoughts, our destination is still far from sure.
And in helping us to love, Jesus gave us His Church and the sacraments, and even Himself: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn 6:54)
And oh the light shall be bright then, as we love Him and our neighbors, together eternally. And I will hug mom and all my relatives once again.
Where is God? He is in you, my friends and neighbors, and in the words I read about His life, and in His Church and sacraments, and in my heart. When I want to ask where He is, I need only to go to those places, and I will find Him. Sometimes those who shout the loudest “Where is God?” are the ones shouting into the darkness, alone. They demand to see him, but they won’t turn up the light. He is right there in the room with them, but they won’t look up.
I pray for God’s mercy on them, that perhaps He may suddenly flash before their eyes and they can see, even as He did to me.