Our Sacred Stories ~ Trying to Figure It Out: Our Life-long Quest for God Among Us
In 2007, Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson published a wonderful book entitles Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God. Its title might in some ways be intimidating. But its aim and what Sr. Johnson presents is really quite timely and very readable. It speaks to everyone’s shared need to figure out who we are and how we relate to all that is around us.
Many years ago, I dropped in on a soccer game in which one of my nephews was playing. After trying to spot Andrew, I finally found him with some of his team mates. They were off the field, crouched on the opposite sidelines examining an anthill. These 6 year-olds were intrigued by what they had discovered. At every stage in our lives, from the smallest child to the wise elderly, we find ourselves trying to “figure it out”. We are “seekers” by nature.
For the person of faith, whether we are firm or struggling in that faith – and let’s be honest, we are all a little bit of both, our search to find God among us is part of our life journey. The Gospels are replete with stories of such seekers, trying to “figure it out”.
As Luke describes Jesus beginning his mission, he tells the story of Jesus going to his hometown of Nazareth and entering the synagogue (Luke 4:21-30). The people listen as he reads from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Is. 61:1-2). As he speaks about the passage, they find what he says difficult and get upset. Jesus especially challenges them with his comment that what Isaiah proclaimed is in fact now being fulfilled. Finding God among them is a challenge. As much as they honoured the prophets like Isaiah, they often struggled with what the prophets proclaimed. They could not handle seeing God so closely among them. It is no easy task to recognize how God relates to us and how we relate to God.
In our current world the great tendency is to see God at the peak of a triangle, the authority, the judge, the all-powerful one who is far from our humanity and our circumstances. This is a concept of God that developed in the 17th & 18th century and gave what is termed “modern theism”. Such a God is above us and beyond us in the created universe. This is a God who is far from us. Our quest is to find the God who is close and relatable and lives among us.
This relatable God lies at the core of our Christian faith. The writer of the first letter of John captures this: Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them. (1 John 4:7, 16)
In our Catholic tradition we often begin our communal and our personal prayer with a blessing: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is not just an empty expression or a meaningless rote ritual. In fact, it is an expression of our relationship with our God who is love. Out of love God gave and gives us life. Out of love God reached out and came among us in the person of Jesus the Christ. And out of love God continues to be among us in the power of the Spirit.
This is the Good News that Jesus preached in his mission. It is the mission that he has passed on to every disciple and it is the center of our scriptures, our creeds and our life of prayer and action. Paul, writing to the Christian community in Corinth expresses the aim of our quest, who we really are, around the world: Now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love (1 Cor.13:13).
Question for Reflection: How am I doing with my quest for the
living God in my life?