Of late I find myself thinking of the ways that God comes to us. In the past I have looked for God to come to me whenever I’ve needed His help, either for myself or for others, and I’ve been bitterly disappointed when He seemed to pay me no heed. But recently I’ve had the feeling that, rather than urging God to pay attention to my needs and activities, God is urging me to pay attention to His activities, His needs. I’m beginning to think that, as Catholics, we ought to be finding ways of looking for God rather than always expecting Him to look for us. Doing that, I believe, will lead us to deeper questions and discoveries about God, life and relationships.
I believe that it is vital now more than ever to find ways of recognising God in a secular world, a world which constantly urges us to invest exclusively in the material. The secular world encourages us to buy, buy, and buy, regardless of whether or not we need or can afford the luxuries with which it tempts us. We are encouraged to borrow money at crippling rates of interest by a world which is coldly indifferent to the heartache, the suffering and, often, the tragic consequences which occur in the wake of insurmountable debt. And does the acquisition of material wealth or possessions bring the happiness it promises? No, it does not.
To know Jesus, to hear Jesus, to love Jesus, to trust Jesus, to obey Jesus and to serve Jesus, ought to be the goal of every Catholic. So how can we recognise God in a secular world? Participation in the sacraments is arguably the best-known spiritual practice of Catholic Christianity. The embrace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation enhances people’s spiritual life: it is the sacrament in which we ask the Lord for healing and forgiveness for our faults; it is the sacrament in which we look into the compassionate face of God as He confesses His love for us; it is the sacrament through which we can assess our own spiritual growth. Daily prayer is another way we can recognise God. This can be personal, private prayer to the Lord, conscious of his presence, accepting of his love, and returning it with praise, petition, and thanksgiving.
If our faith is based on looking for God only when we need something, then our faith experience will be shallow and disappointing. Luke 6:47-49 states: “As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built”. When we actively seek God through the teachings of His beloved Son, Jesus, our faith experience will be rich and deep, built on a foundation of rock: strong, unshakeable and life-enhancing. It will inform our every minute as we move through life’s joys and sorrows, life’s wonders and daily miracles, and it will always hold us in the light of God’s presence as He waits to welcome us into eternity.
Emmet Thompson is Pastoral Coordinator of the Parish of Templemore (St Eugene’s and Long Tower)