Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Path of Knowing God

May 26, 2019: Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 15:1–2, 22–29 / Psalm 67 / Revelation 21:1-–14, 22–23 / John 14:23–29
The Path of Knowing God

One of the most famous quotes by St Augustine comes early in Confessions, his spiritual memoir: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Around the world and throughout time, the whole human race has a record of seeking God. As Christians we know why: There is a “God-shaped hole” in our hearts––we are the result of special creation in the image of God. We should also understand why it is hard for humans to perceive God––as Paul wrote to the Romans, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened (Romans 1:21).

But the love of God that created us continues in a love that does not leave us abandoned to find God by ourselves; God comes to us. Just as God created us in love, he comes to us fully human and fully God as Jesus of Nazareth. As Jesus told Philip earlier in the chapter of today’s Gospel, Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9).

Yet Jesus is no longer here literally in his physical body. We can’t go to Israel and see him. As he told the disciples, I am going to my Father….  Having died for our sins and rising from the dead to secure our eternal life, he invites those who believe: follow me. One way we follow Jesus is a phrase in today’s Gospel: keep my word.

This invitation takes us from mere history and doctrine to something that fills the empty place in our hearts: Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. God comes to us through Jesus and lives in our hearts!

This is the Good News of Christian Faith. And it seems that with this, everyone should be “fixed” and life should be easy. Jesus even says, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. What happened? Our world is not at peace, and even Christians do not live in peace.

One problem is that we have taken this too personally. “Personal” too easily becomes “self-focused.” If we try to live a Christian life with a “just me and Jesus” formula, we get into trouble. By ourselves we often get things wrong. While Christian Faith is indeed personal, it is not individualistic.

When we come to Jesus, we come into his Body. It’s called the Church. Collectively, we have a wisdom that goes beyond our individual selves. Just as Jesus is Incarnate––fully human and fully God, the Church is also incarnate. The Church is indeed the composite of the people who belong to Jesus, but it is also a fusion with the Holy Spirit. God has provided a spiritual wisdom that goes beyond our individual abilities. This is one reason we have the Church.

We should not be surprised by questions and frustrations. From the beginning those who follow Jesus have needed to find a common way through the Church. The early Christian community had barely gotten started before it was faced with a huge question: what about people who are not Jewish who want to follow Jesus? This was crucial, and Jesus had not left a specific instruction.

But God had come to dwell in those who believed and wanted to follow, and as the assembled leadership met they came to a solution. This was the beginning the Apostolic Rule of Faith and the developing authority of the Church. Through this we see that God is at work to complete the circle that takes us back to the basic issue: how can I best fill that “God-shaped hole” in my heart?

I have shared more about my journey from Evangelical to Catholic than I have about my early commitment to Jesus. In my early teens I was in rebellion against God. I had bought into the hellish lie that the Church was something invented by old people to keep young people from having fun. I was profane and blasphemous. My focus was on the world’s triad of idols: money, sex, and power. I didn’t know to get any of them, but they were my goal. I was all about “me.”

But deep down I did not like myself, and decent kids who were my peers didn’t seem to like me very much, either. One Sunday night when I was fifteen I was in church (very much against my will, but my dad had a way of keeping authority!). As usual, I was tuned out––but as the service was ending that night the Holy Spirit flooded me with a picture of myself before God. I was worse than the Laodiceans in the book of Revelation: wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (3:17). With that I saw that the One alternative was what God had done through Jesus Christ. My heart melted. I gave myself unconditionally to the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I was changed. I knew then––and know now––that apart from Jesus I am helpless and hopeless. Compared to having the life of Jesus, nothing else matters. And while my journey has had its ups and downs, I have not turned away from Jesus being my focus in what is now over fifty-something years.

One thing that has kept me on course and brought me to today is the Church. Just as we’re lost without Jesus, we need the Church to help us find and follow Jesus faithfully. The Apostolic Tradition takes us through the Holy Spirit to Jesus, and Jesus leads us to all the fullness of God because, as he said, I and the Father are one.

Do you have questions? Do you sometimes (or even often) feel frustrated? Be sure you are listening to the Church in a way that keeps the focus on Jesus. Always cultivate that hunger for God which inhabits every human heart––a hunger that prays: You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Give yourself unreservedly to Jesus. Jesus has promised us his peace. His desire is to live in our hearts. Trust the graces he has given to help us through his Church. This will fill that “God-shaped hole” in your heart with the fulness of God.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I like this Homily.....Ben

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