God in life
God in life is just another and easier way of saying “God in revelation”, “God in history”. Everything we know about God is through God showing Himself. However, the way God “cements” Himself in real life is in and with the people who make Himself known to other people. And that, too, is the great topic of the Bible. The experience of God in real life is such that it forms a culture around it. This culture entails the Sabbath (or Sunday for Christians), the Ten Commandments, the Covenant and the care for the needy. The spirit of such a culture and the motivation to live it is this particular experience of God. Everything, which flows from it, expresses and strengthens it. In that way, the very presence of God remains and is remembered. However, a further step must be taken: the worship of God must be channeled to others in their circumstances of life. If that does not happen, there is the real danger that the revelation of God remains with just a certain group of people (there was always the temptation in the Old Testament to make God a national God. God objects to this notion, e.g. the Book of Jonah who is sent to Niniveh) or, even worse, it evaporates into thin air. The name of God is attached to people who have come to experience Him and make Him known to others. Our experience today is that people (esp. children and young people) hear and experience so little about God that He has become vague to them.
And this is our real dilemma. Considering the “agents” of spreading the Gospel, we are immediately on the backfoot. Priests, parents, catechists and teachers are fighting the same battle: it is the battle for the Gospel in the hearts and minds of women, men and children. Times have changed and continue to change rapidly. All agents are forced to rethink the way they live their faith and proclaim it. This causes a rift in the Church as people are divided in the way God should be made known. There are scores of projects, programmes, structures and strategies just to consider ways of relating God to reality. And reality is the lives of women, men, children, families, politics, the economy, education and health. The problem is that we are so used to separating God from life. If we would allow God to enter our spheres of life, we would see what impact He would have on us. In the Bible God’s rhythm of life is to share Himself with His chosen ones, they then become the sign to others and share Him with them, and the glory and honour is given to God. Life which leaves Him, passes to and through others to enrich and redeem them, and return to Him. This can be in the form of reconciliation, social responsibility, and peace initiatives. God experience is to make the world a better place for all.
Only once did this fully succeed. It is in and through Jesus, the Son of God. God’s definitive revelation of Himself is Jesus, His Son. Through Him we see God as the merciful Father and the Holy Spirit as the bond of love with us. We are included in the life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is where the Church as the community called by Christ to be his “Body” and continue his mission until the end of time must become the sign and presence of the Holy Trinity in the world.
And that brings us back to the same question. How does all of this become experience? Like any experience to become part of life, our experience of God must be organic. In other words, so many areas of life must link with each other for faith to be an intellectual, spiritual, emotional and moral value worth living and sacrificing for. Only then will it be an experience of fulfilment and happiness. This happens when the family home links to the Church, the Church to the family with its work and social situation, the Church as human community to the children’s or youth’ interests, the children and youth participate in the life of the Church, the parents become active members in the functions of the Church (charity, teaching and worship), the leadership of the Church is clear and inspiring and the sense of community is strong. The group of the people whose faith is threatened is those who just come for Holy Mass or to receive the Sacraments occasionally. They don’t see the Church as the space for an experience with God of life but as a service delivery for certain moments in life like the sacraments (e.g. baptism, First Holy Communion, funerals, etc.) There are just not enough links to join them organically to the experience of God in the Church where life flows from one link into the others. As the First Letter of John says: “This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have touches – we speak of the word of life.” In other words, God by way of experience!
The experience of God needs our attention all the time, and not just sometimes. Then, and only then, will the revelation of God to us find a place in our hearts.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies February 5 2020 (Bothasig)