Who Is God? A Holy Week Reflection
An experience of God's personal and loving presence is the highest goal of human nature
Want to know who God is? That answer will not come easily, for it involves sacrifice and death to self. There are no shortcuts; there are no "techniques" to learn. However, as Blessed John Paul II often said, "Be not afraid!" For Christ himself has died for us. Set sail on the journey of the interior life of grace and the experience of God's presence within.
Whether admitted or not, whether embraced of not, we cannot achieve our human fullness apart from seriously considering the question of who God is. To attempt to ignore or bury this question is futile; for it will again rise to the surface: "Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?" (Ps. 139:7). If we do not ardently seek to answer this highest and most pressing question, we shall have failed miserably, and thus remain stunted, incomplete, unsatisfied and pitifully unhappy.
Therefore to despise the question is to turn from light toward darkness; it is to trade infinite and lasting beauty for evanescent created objects; it is to stifle, reduce and even constrict the intellect and its exalted potential to one of an unfulfilled state of dreary isolation; it is to self-define our own being as less than fully human and thus grovel in the murky depths of a paltry, near beastly existence. Simply, we cannot achieve the exalted status for which God has destined us apart from answering this question. Therefore the goal of human nature is to do so.
However, some merely want to know what God is, as if defining God or understanding something of his attributes is satisfactory; but that is not enough. For to be fully human is to strive to not only answer this question, but go far beyond it, reaching into God himself through a participation in God's own divine life by the free gift of grace. Yes, we need -- in fact crave -- not to know simply what God is but rather who he is.
Given God's transcendence and complete lack of dependence on anything outside of himself, how is it possible for mere mortals to know the eternal, omnipotent and omniscient God who is Creator of all that is visible and invisible? Some would, therefore, insist that this question of "who is God?" is unanswerable. I beg to differ. If we look upon Christ crucified, the boundless yet paradoxical love of the infinite God for mere finite men is revealed in astonishing brilliance. In Christ the self-gift of God to mankind is unveiled. Indeed, we can hope to know God! For the Son of God assumed human flesh and became man: in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son, who "reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature" (Heb. 1:2-3).
Lent: Answer The Question
The sacred season of Lent is precisely about learning who God is. As we enter into Holy Week, provided we do so fruitfully, we enter into the very life of God as we voluntarily choose of our own free will to participate in the Paschal Mystery; that is, as we immerse ourselves in the mysteries of the life of Christ, we become like God. This is not something we do metaphorically or only symbolically, rather it is something real: we are to become "little christs."
But let us back up some. Answering the question of "who is God?" is not simply a matter of idle reflection or meditation; nor is it achieved in only gazing upon the wonders of creation; nor will this question be fully answered in the reading of Sacred Scripture only, and so forth. As important as these things can be, we must not attempt to answer this question in that spirit of subjectivism which insists upon our own ideas. For Christ himself has set before us a journey by which we are to come to know God.
What is this journey? It begins with God's call to us, which is a gift of grace. Here we recognize, however subtly or strongly, the need to "connect with" or know or belong to God. We begin to pray, to seek to enter into an intimate relationship with the divine Other through open disclosure of the secrets of our heart. We begin to look upon Christ with eyes of love. But that is not enough; for if we are to know who God is, it is necessary to become a member of the divine family.
St. Paul tells us that those who have been baptized are baptized into Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:3). Through the sacrament of Baptism we are purified of our sins, incorporated into Christ and the Church, and given the incomparable gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-42). In 1 Peter we read that Baptism "now saves you" (3:21); in fact, the Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation (cf. Jn 3:5; CCC 1257). The two principal effects of this sacrament, the doorway to eternal life, are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit (CCC 1262). Baptism gives to us the gift of sanctifying grace by which we come to share in God's own life as adopted sons and daughters of the divine family.
There is a great deal that could be said here. But it is important to understand that this journey of which we are speaking is one ...
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