Knowing of God or Knowing God?
Matthew J. Bellisario 2011
Mankind has a shared existence that is united in God, the creator. Every man or women who has existed since time began, share in this unique image, which resides primarily in the intellect and the will. The reason man is able to construct great things, that is construct great architecture, music or other arts is because there is an order in which he has a share in. In order for there to be a beginning or end to a story, there must be an order of nature for it to exist within. So every man experiences God on this simple level, yet it is only visualized by most men or women on a subconscious level. It is like seeing a light bulb light up a room, and yet the thought never occurs to the person as to how that light comes to that bulb which in turn illumines the room. Man assumes many things he experiences in his or her day to day lives without ever looking beyond the thin veil to give study to who gives order to the universe.
Those who receive and co-operate with God’s grace move on to examine this order which sustains them. They come to see that what lies behind the veil is more than they bargained for. Universal truth is like a roaring lion to those who had previously lived their lives as if such a thing never existed. Those who are blessed with the grace to find Christ and His Church go even deeper into the realm of truth, and their intellects are enlightened by Divine Revelation. God spoke through His only Divine Son, Jesus Christ, who then sent the Holy Spirit to keep His Revelation untouched by human hands. Jesus’ apostles went out and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit passed on the light of the Gospel. But even though many have heard and intellectually received the Gospel, few are those who actually inwardly experience God. Although we rely on our intellects to observe and internalize truth, our journey to God does not stop with the intellect.
Why have so many Christians fled to the desert to seek God? The greatest difficulty in man’s effort to seek God is his inability to hand over his or her will to God. "Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 7:21) Certainly God’s grace is presumed in any headway a person makes in union with God. Somehow in God’s masterful creation, predilection and freewill are unopposed. So man is given an intellect so that he may use it to understand truth, and then his will must be conformed to that truth. This second step is where we are most likely to fail. We can read and understand the Catholic faith, and yet never enter into that union or friendship of God. It would be similar to reading about a famous movie star or musician that you admire. You could read about them and watch every documentary ever produced on them, even visit the places where they grew up and lived, and yet never know them as a person. In other words, a fan is not a friend, and a fan of learning about Christ does not necessarily know Christ. You can read books on God, read the Bible, and visit the Holy Land and yet remain a complete stranger to God.
Here lies the problem for each and every one of us. How well do we actually know Jesus Christ? This is a question we must ask ourselves each day, and then respond with an appropriate measure of action to ensure that we do indeed know Him, not just know about Him. It is a question that should strike us with fear, and hopefully motivate us to prayer. Prayer is the key to unlocking this door which bars us from divine union. Certainly we receive grace when we frequent the Sacraments, but what does that grace produce in us? Are we automatically given divine union just by making the choice to go to Mass every Sunday? Ivan the Terrible went to Mass at his own monastery during the day, and at night tortured and cut men to pieces in the walls below where he had just went to Mass. Grace is something that man is given by God to be held as a precious pearl. How many times have we gone to Mass only to squander the graces away later in the day? Only God knows the answer to that question. So how do we come to know God? This is the real question that needs to be answered.
I started this article by looking at nature and order, which we all must sooner or later admit is created by God. If we are to know God, we must use our intellects in a higher fashion that just collecting information. We must bring these truths which we come to know into action in our lives. As we learn from the Master through His Divine Revelation, we must conform our wills to what He has taught us. The Church proclaims the Gospel in her teachings through Divine Revelation, which consists in the oral proclamation of Jesus. Some of this proclamation was written down, which we have in the Sacred Scriptures. Much of the Gospel is also passed along in the very living fabric of the Church. We have the liturgical action of the Church and all of the Sacraments and Sacramentals that flow from it. Extending from that we have our personal prayer with God, from which then we enter into how we actually live our lives. We must engage our faith on every level of our lives in order to truly know God. We do not love God on Sundays and then live for ourselves Monday through Saturday.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom once said when asked, “Do you find that the surface culture of the modern English way of life makes it difficult to communicate the Gospel? He answered, ‘Yes, because the Gospel must reach not only the intellect but the whole being. English people often say, “That’s interesting, let’s talk about it, lets explore it as an idea,’ but actually do nothing about it. To meet God means to enter into the ‘cave of the tiger’- it is not a pussy cat you meet- it’s a tiger. The realm of God is dangerous. You must enter into it and not just seek information about it.” This quote sums up the problem of knowing God quite well. How we internalize and act upon what we learn about God is just as important as how much we know. What we know must be orthodox teaching yes, but how we act upon that orthodoxy is what truly matters if we are to know God, and not just know about Him.
How much do we pray? Does our faith continue on as we work our jobs day to day? Do we seek guidance from God each day? How do we view God? Is He just the great man upstairs, adding and subtracting sins before and after we enter and leave the confessional? What do we spend our time doing when we are not working? Do we pray, or watch a movie instead? When we drive do we do it in silence, praying to God, or do we crank up the tunes? These are all tough questions that we must answer. How hard is it to go home and sit for fifteen minutes in complete silence listening for God? I must admit, this is a huge struggle for me. Sometimes I feel like I want to pull my hair out rather than sit in silence at my home. Sure, if I go to Church to pray in silence, it is much easier. But at home, the distractions are many. Do we allow distractions to pull us away from God? Even when it comes to reading about God, this cannot be a substitute for being with God. All of the knowledge about God in the world is not going to save us. Even Satan knows more about God than the greatest theologians in the world. He could easily rake us over the coals in a theological debate. His intellect is far superior than ours, yet his knowledge and intellect alone will never save him. It is what got him into trouble in the first place. Unless we engage God in prayer regularly, and live what He teaches us, we will never know Him. Why are faith and works so important to a true Christian? Unless we put faith into action and intertwine it with the very fabric of how we live our lives, which includes friendship with God, then that faith is dead. Dead faith is only a faith which resides in our memory banks. We know it, but we do not live it. It never produces any fruit. We believe it yes, but we do not act on it. This is the real problem for many in the Church today. We believe but we will not to act on that belief. We would rather live like those who never looked beyond the veil to see who it is that is running the universe.
The Parable of the Sower comes to mind to sum up this problem of knowing God, “Hear ye: Behold, the sower went out to sow. And whilst he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate it up. And other some fell upon stony ground, where it had not much earth; and it shot up immediately, because it had no depth of earth. And when the sun was risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And some fell upon good ground; and brought forth fruit that grew up, and increased and yielded, one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred. And he said: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” The explanation that Jesus gives is telling and it can give us insight to those who never look behind the veil, those who do then turn away, those who do and then venture to learn more, enter in, yet later turn away for the cares of the world, and then those who step behind the veil, and enter into that cave where the tiger lurks, to meet almighty God. “He that soweth, soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown, and as soon as they have heard, immediately Satan cometh and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these likewise are they that are sown on the stony ground: who when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but are only for a time: and then when tribulation and persecution ariseth for the word they are presently scandalized. And others there are who are sown among thorns: these are they that hear the word, And the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts after other things entering in choke the word, and it is made fruitless. And these are they who are sown upon the good ground, who hear the word, and receive it, and yield fruit, the one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred.”