Monday, September 12, 2011

Attracting God’s attention

On one of those rare occasions this week, I had a rare moment of rest time from my studies, and wandered into the common room of the castle of my residence. I fumbled with the switches and the TV’s remote control, I did the American thing – channel surfed. It was mind-boggling how many channels the cable TV has. Literally hundreds.

Of course, there were education channels where there were good history programs and documentaries, which were very interesting to watch, but at the other end of the spectrum was what I would call pure trash and offered nothing but visceral delights. But what I found most amusing were their infomercial channels, where product after product being sold offered promise after promise of making one a happy person in various areas of one’s life. Gadgets for the home promised a more convenient lifestyle, products for the body promised health with little or no discipline needed, and products for beauty promised the ability to get the attention of the opposite sex almost without even trying. Perhaps there should be a product that promised Americans jobs, which is something this country seems to be in dire need of. But the bottom line of so many of these products lies the selling point, sometimes clear as a bell, sometimes very subliminal – this is the way to get others to find you attractive, and you will be happy.

If we spend so much time and effort in trying to get others to accept and like us in life, by searching for that correct fragrance, wear that correct dress, have that accepted body shape, live in that correct address or drive that correct car, do we ever spend time pondering what it is in life that would make us become attractive to God. Well, to many, I suppose, this question would be nonsensical, but for various reasons.

The atheist would say God doesn’t exist, so it’s a non-question. The spiritual person would say that one doesn’t need to anything to be attractive to God because God loves us all, and has no condition to his love. And there would be the many between this spectrum who hold the view that some things we do can make us more attuned to God and some can lead us away from him.

In my “Inner Way” course that is one of my electives, one of the things that we have discussed is what our spiritual lives mean to us as human beings. The purpose or rationale of a Spiritual Director is to guide one to reach that path of life so that our deepest meaning can be uncovered, and our path to that can be less covered.

I was glad to hear Abbot Lee (that’s his title and name, and no, he is not Chinese) say that it is mercy that lies at the heart of God, and it is that merciful heart that we should ultimately be in union with. In other words, we come closest to God and his merciful heart when we honestly admit of our need for his mercy.

What comes to mind is the parable that Jesus told in Luke 18:9-14. In that story lies the secret to the heart of God, and what makes us attractive to him.

You see, it’s not all the ways that we have not sinned that makes us attractive in God’s eyes, because if that were the case, we will have merited heaven on our own accord, inflating in no small way our huge egos that would hinder us from entering the doorway to heaven (not that heaven has a doorway). But it is just the opposite, when we have sinned and realized that we have sinned, requiring us to ask nothing more from God but his tender mercy, allowing us to dip our parched souls in the pools of his life-giving waters that stream from his heart, that enables us to be ‘attractive’ to him. In fact, it is when we see who we are and stand ‘a distance away’, and not raise our eyes to heaven in a stance like that of the publican, that precisely brings us closer to heaven and let heaven come to our eyes.

I don’t think many of us get that at all. And so, we spend most of our time jumping the hoops, and trying to get God’s attention by our deeds and works and fulfilling of obligations. No, it’s not that these are bad. In themselves they are good and very needful, but if we forget why we do them, and fail to consistently remind ourselves the rationale for doing them, we can easily end up thinking that we are doing them SO THAT we get God, rather than BECAUSE God has ‘gotten’ us first.

And no, I am in no way advocating that we lead sin-filled and lives of debauchery either, erroneously reading Rom 5:20 to our seeming advantage. Just because where “sin abounds, grace abounds even greater” does not mean we should live in sin with wild abandon.

It must be the awareness of this that as Church, when we gather for the Eucharistic meal, we need to begin with that stark, honest and humble acknowledgement of “Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison”. It is our universal cry for God’s infinite mercy that throws light on our darkened souls that enables us to enter correctly (and in the correct light) into the banquet hall of love.

And that makes us very very attractive to God.


  1. Dear Fr. Luke,

    Funny you should mention that.

    Every time that I'm in church, at mass, and I look up at the altar, and past it, at the tabernacle, I am reminded of just how sinful and unworthy I really am; and just how much I am in need of His mercy.

    Sinful and unworthy indeed, for who can look towards the Man on the cross and not feel totally inadaquate? It is in gazing upon perfection itself that one recognises his own inperfections; and many they are.

    I suppose in the light of this one could end up feeling totally hopeless ; and yet, (and this is the paradox) it is He who gives us that very hope that no one or nothing else ever could.

    Peace and Joy,

  2. “ In themselves they are good and very needful, but if we forget why we do them, and fail to consistently remind ourselves the rationale for doing them, we can easily end up thinking that we are doing them SO THAT we get God, rather than BECAUSE God has ‘gotten’ us first.......”

    When we were students and got all intense and mooned over pop artists, movie stars or the latest songs and dance moves during lessons or coming late for class , the teachers in exasperation would demand to know what’s gotten into us and we said – ‘ Love.’ So when I read your blog and stopped at the above quote- I also exchanged the word God for Love. And in a way you were spot on when you said that God has gotten us first........
    Love makes us strangers to ourselves . I remember telling myself how I would never allow family and children to come between me and career but the arrival of my first born made me a willing and happy slave to the little bundle of joy. What has gotten into me ? I’ve fallen in love with a mere 2.7kg of an infant who paradoxically, became my first teacher in forgetful self-love and - a most demanding one at that !
    So too, when God has gotten us........ we have fallen in love with God, and so the rationale of our works and deeds are no longer important. Our prayers, devotions and worship are not obligations to please and hold His attention anymore. In fact every action however minute becomes a joy and liberation to do....... ( just as He promised us - that His yoke is gentle and the burden light. ) In time , humility , patience, gentleness, fortitude and many more virtues will become the hallmark of our service.
    Alas, we are still “works –in- process” and ( hopefully progress ) , so like the publican we better make sure we come often into His presence – with bowed heads and contrite hearts- seeking His mercy.
    God bless you Fr.

  3. I once bought some food from a roadside vendor who was a little old lady, thinking that I was being benevolent & magnanimous. I was thoroughly humbled when the little old lady gave me extra food free-of-charge instead. God had shown me humility, mercy & grace in a far, far purer form that day.

    “He casts the mighty from their thrones & raises the lowly.” – Luke 1:52; the Magnificat. How apt!!!

    Thank you, Father, for your sharing.

  4. It is so true, Fr. The many times when I know God has gotten me first are the times I go on bended knees and pray, "Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner", whether in moments of joy or contrition.