One of the most recent books to find its way to my cluttered coffee table has the title ‘Where I find God.’ It is a beautiful book in which some of Ireland’s finest thinkers share where they have found, and continue to find, the Divine in their lives. When I began reading what Father Peter McVerry had to say, I was stuck to the floor with shock. ‘I do not find God anywhere,’ he begins. Was this the story of a man who had lost his faith? The briefest millisecond that it took for me to cross the semi-colon and complete reading the first sentence felt eternal. So, I was relieved when I read the sentence in full: ‘I do not find God anywhere; God finds me.’ Meeting God in the pain of those around him, this priest and social advocate for the voiceless imagines God finding him and thanking him for what he is doing for God’s children. ‘I do not find God anywhere; God finds me.’ In the same book Friar Liam Kelly remembers an image of a field mouse peeking through a woodland floor and around the image, the words: ’To Seek God, you must first of all allow yourself to be found by Him.’ God surprises us, searches us.
‘Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice,’ we pray in the Psalm 105, ‘Constantly seek his face.’ And in Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel we have three images that help paint the picture of the God who finds us wherever we are at. This is the ‘Lost and found’ section of the New Testament, with its stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Here we have a picture of the God who searches for us, the God who leaves no stone unturned looking for us and rejoices in finding us.
There is no such thing as a lost cause and no matter how much we might feel at sea, that is the exact place where we can be found. Jesus in His table fellowship and keeping company with tax collectors and sinners reveals the God who is heartbroken at the lost and rejoices at finding them. To Jesus it is the one lost sheep of the hundred who is most important, the one lost coin of the ten that is most valuable. When we are near rock bottom our feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness disguise the truth of how preferential God’s searching love is. When we despair at the seeming absence of the God we cannot find, that’s the time to believe in the God who finds us.
Rearranging the letters of the word ‘NOWHERE’ might offer a clever inroad toward the bigger mind that the gospel call to conversion challenges. Because faith assures ultimately that the God who at times appears to be NOWHERE is none other than the God who in Jesus is NOW HERE meeting us where we’re at—if only we’d open our hearts to recognise.
Fr Michael McGrath is a priest of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.