THREE WAYS TO SEE GOD

This title may be a misnomer. There are many ways to see God and this is a reflection from my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) about three of them that come to mind.

My next door neighbor, now deceased, God rest his soul, was a devout atheist. A good man to be sure. He would say to me how he did not see God anywhere. It was hardly surprising to me since he was a retired physician. and would always disclaim anything he could not see. That was playing in the back of my consciousness as I began to ask myself how I see God as I seek God in daily living.

THE GOD OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

Whenever I pray the Psalms, which is almost every day of the week, nowadays, I am struck by the way the Psalmist approaches God. Although the individual is praying to God for mercy and forgiveness (remember David’s sin), It is Israel as a people who have strayed away from God and are in need of redemption. “O, God, come to my assistance, O Lord, make haste to help me,” we begin each of the Hours of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Psalms are wonderful poems and prayers from a person who recognizes that they are in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness, each day. They remind me of the presence of God in daily living.

Moses encountered God in the burning bush. Israel as a people encountered God in the various victories or defeats that it suffered on its way to the Promised Land. The Old Testament is all about how Israel was unfaithful to God and had to be punished. Ten of the tribes are called the Lost Tribes of Israel because they were assimilated into cultures that did not know Joseph or his brothers. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ten-Lost-Tribes-of-Israel. The God of the Old Testament works through events such as these.

As a Lay Cistercian, I am just beginning to be re-aware of the importance of God’s manifestation through nature, through events (such as the current crisis of what it means to be a celibate Catholic Priest in today’s society).

In the morning, on the way to Liturgy of the Hours at Good Shepherd parish, I sometimes see the golden light of a morning Sun brush the leaves with its delicate light. It is when I make the connection with God that I become empowered to be an adopted son of the Father. It is when I see God when I look at the young Springtime leaves of trees that makes me appreciate God’s goodness to us. It is when I don’t take nature or people for granted that I become more like God and less like my false self.

THE GOD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

I have asked myself the question, “What is the importance of Christ becoming human, taking on our nature, being one of us in all things but sin, living in the swimming pool of our human condition?” Philippians 2:5-12 is an eloquent description of what is called kenosis, the emptying of self to take on a new dimension, in this case, human nature. What love must that be? The God of the New Testament existed in the mountain tops, the God of Thunder (El Shaddai), the Lord of Nature. If the God of the Old Testament is one of power and grandeur, to be worshipped in the Holy of Holies, then the God of the New Testament is the person of Christ, one who has humility and obedience to the will of the Father.

The God of the New Testament is Christ showing us how to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Jesus shows us the meaning of what it means to be human, what it means to love authentically. We can not only see God in nature, but also through His Real Presence in the Eucharist and in Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

THE GOD OF NOW

It might be too philosophical to say that we just live in a succession of Nows, but it is how I view reality. Each moment presents itself to humans and then slips away. What we do at that moment is conscious or unconscious, but as a 16mm film, each frame is separate. It is only when we run the film through a projector that we have movement. My life is all the film stored up in cans (kept in the recesses of my mind). All of this happens naturally, so we don’t even know it is happening.

TRANSFORMING THE MOMENT

In thinking about how my Lay Cistercian spirituality influences the reality in which I find myself, I can transform the moment by love. Each moment comes and goes and I have choices about what to do with it after it is past. I can only control the moment. I make choices about what is good or bad, about what is meaningful, about my purpose. Sin means I choose an attitude or activity that is not consistent with the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament (Christ) would want. What I put in that moment is important because that is indelibly marked on my soul, like Baptism and Holy Orders. We can’t change it but we can learn from it and the knowledge can help us love others as Christ has loved us. When we ask God for mercy, we are saying that we recognize that past activities were not in keeping with what He has taught us. That is at the heart of what the Psalmist says in his or her prayer from the heart. Because we are the Church of the Old Testament and the Church of the New Testament, seeing and seeking God through nature, through with and in Christ, we bring to the table of the Eucharist all those successions of Nows and transform them, not by anything we can do, but through, with and in Christ. With Christ as our mediator, we transform the Now into something new, a gift that goes from the bounds of our Natural Law to being unlimited and timeless. All of this may seem a little esoteric, but I think of it as just starting each day as the opportunity to seek God in daily living. Using the tools of good works, much like someone at the gym uses exercise equipment, we approach each new day as though it were a lifetime. I try to read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict each day to keep myself grounded in the present but place my hope in God alone. I see God by trying each day to be what I pray.

I see God through the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration, by having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5), through silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community as a Lay Cistercian. I seek to sit on a park bench in the dead of Winter and wait for the coming of the Lord, hoping to have my heart next to His heart. Some days are better than others. This is why each day is not wasted and is linked to every other day. Christ is present yesterday, today and tomorrow.

THE CHURCH AS THE GUARDIAN OF THE NOW

All I know in my lifetime I experience through my senses, through my attitude to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Because I Now exist in the condition of imperfection (Original Sin), I have the free will to choose what is good for me but don’t always do so. Sin is not just an action or a rule that I break as much as missing the mark, straying off what the will of the Father is, aiming but not hitting the bullseye on my purpose in life. This is the context of the Church in each age, trying to love others as Christ loves us.

  • When I say the Word Church, I mean Church Universal, all those who have gone before us in Heaven, all those left on each still struggling to love God with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37) and those awaiting purification.
  • Church means I am linked with the body of all those who are, who have been, and who will be marked with the sign of Faith. The Church is indeed the guardian of the Now, transforming it by allowing the corporate us to mingle with the individual me.
  • The Church does not exist by and for itself and can not live without its head, Christ.
  • The Church is the body of Christ, we sometimes call it the Mystical Body of Christ.
  • Like the God of the Old Testament, we must always be aware that we have seen God through events and through nature. Like the God of the New Testament, we must keep before us the mind of Christ Jesus.
  • We see God in every day living by transforming our selves to God through Christ. Our challenge is to take up our cross daily and follow Christ. What that looks like depends upon whom you have around you to support and sustain you in your journey. You make your journey alone but with others who share your vision and your Faith.

Far from being an insignificant cog on the wheel of life, I hope that I can live one day what I experience each day. I don’t just belong to the human race, I belong to Christ. That is why conversion of life is so important. What I bring with me to Heaven, what I pack for the journey to Forever is a succession of Nows, all linked through, with and in Christ Jesus to the glory of the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS

  1. We can see God today through the God of power and might. God is seen in the events that happen to us every day, such as the call of the Church to be holy (be holy as Christ is holy) in the midst of internal turmoil. We keep our hope in God alone.
  2. We can see God today by loving others as Christ has loved us. (Matthew 25:36).
  3. Personally, I see God through silence, solitude, prayer, work, and community as a Lay Cistercian. These practices are not the end result but only the means to place myself on a park bench, in the dead of Winter, waiting with anticipation for the heart of Christ to sit next to me and warm my spirit.
  4. When it comes to achieving perfection, all of us will always be novices, in daily need of conversion of heart and mind and strength to Christ. Some days are better than others.
  5. This is why we can say every day, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.”

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