WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

How do I come to know God?

Mark Richards

WelCom September 2017: I have been asked to reflect on what the Church teaches us about how God is revealed in our lives. I want to lead you on a small visualisation exercise.

I have three sons. Each of them came into this world blind, unable to speak, dependent ‒ but they certainly weren’t dumb or unable to eat!

What is the way they came to know and express life and love?

It was in DEEDS done for them, with them; without them initially being able to articulate. Their mother (and father) gave, fed them, clothed them, helped them in the small hours of the morning, talked to them, amused them, picked them up when they fell, and laughed and shared in their moments of exploration.

The first things they saw and responded to were ‘Mother’ and the world around them – in the words of a beautiful little book: What you say to a child when you meet a flower? We have wonderful photos of smelling flowers and laughing with wetas. They got a hint of life and could respond to people and creation.

During that middle teenage time, they wanted to know the rules; they pushed the boundaries, and the parents – who still loved them – found it difficult to continue to love without being seen as a ‘rule keeper’ and ‘the police person’.

Then comes a point, the birth of adulthood, when they are able to love, to serve, to forgive, to express concepts clearly, to discuss and dialogue; to act out of care and love – and their actions are life giving.

Recently a son travelled from one end of the country to surprise his mother for Mother’s Day. Joy filled the parental hearts. At that point he can look back on all the deeds of the last 20 years, on all words shared, and he can see and express what we have known all the time; from the very first moment of his existence, imperfectly by us, he has been loved and brought to life.

So it is in our experience of God, individually and as a community. The Church teaches we get glimpses of God and come to understand God revealed to us in creation, in parental love, in the answering of basic needs, in the call to justice and righteousness, in moments of stillness and prayer, expressed in rules (?). We use our REASON and forms of our language and story to express these glimpses in images we use of God – in words trying to describe our experience as clearly as it is possible, of a partial glimpse of God as: a potter; a shepherd; a King; the creator; and God has given us a law. We use inadequate words and small glimpses to express our hope, faith and dream of life of love and fullness.

‘If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God.’ – St Augustine

St Augustine says: ‘If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God’. Our insights can NEVER encapsulate the mystery of God.

And then…there comes a moment when we encounter, as adults, human or divine presence, in the words, deeds, preaching and serving – life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

In that moment of REVELATION, we can see God has been present in and through every moment of creation, history and life. But what we come to know as the presence and essence of God; is a WORD made FLESH in the DEEDS of one like us, fully human, and fully divine. We have come to know this by looking back, after his death into the reality of what is revealed as the true way of life and love.

There is a characteristic profile of God’s presence, Emmanuel, the WORD made flesh. It is, ‘The Kingdom of God’, the way, truth, and life we see in Jesus. He is ‘the beloved of God’. In him it is shown there are no cultural, ethnic, economic or gender barriers – ‘there is no Greek or Jew, male or female, slave or free’.

In him we learn the same temptations he suffered are the barriers to the fullness of life and love in our lives – the inner temptation to power, riches, placing oneself at the centre. And that the way of life and love is the same as he revealed: get down from the table and serve; go and sit at the well and listen; find those who are cast out and isolated and visit; seek those who are refugees and strangers and welcome them to the table; find those who have been robbed and out of your own purse heal. And do all this in his Spirit: patiently; with forgiveness; with all the knowledge you have; seeking justice; peace; healing; life in its fullness for all. And doing that with a certain type of life and love, which is willing to pour out oneself for the other even unto death.

“…get down from the table and serve”

Our God is revealed in the unity of our DEEDS and WORDS; and our words are always going to be inadequate because ultimately our God is revealed in a living person, the Son, and in his Risen Body, a community, unified by the Spirit of the Risen Christ.

Feel free to email me at mrichards@pndiocese.org.nz at any time.

Mark Richards is Pastoral Service Manager for the Diocese of Palmerston North.