Monday, August 2, 2010

Finding God with dis-ease

Thomas Merton, the noted Cistercian writer and monk, was once quoted as saying “If you find God with great ease, perhaps it is not God that you have found”.

Coming across this quotation set me thinking this week, as I came across quite a few people who in passing, have mentioned to me that the Church with its rituals and rites have made it so difficult and tedious for us to come to God. “God is everywhere after all” seems to be a common remark, and indeed he is. “But do we really need all this ritual just to get to meet him?” Apparently, in many peoples’ minds, if God is so keen on us getting close to him, he should be the one who makes the effort to come and meet us, rather than making us go out of our way to meet him. And the Church should make it easier and more convenient for us to do this.

What has been an oversight is that God did make that great effort. And he not only did it once when creation began, he also did it much more magnificently in the incarnation when he became man, showing us how to really live. Jesus showed us so many times that God has a great hunger for us to come close to him, and that barriers have been removed, starting with the very affectionate way that we can address God as Abba, Father. But he did take a rather circuitous route.

The current secular mind seems to be steeped in the belief that things should be made easier and easier in every arena of our lives. After all, gadgets and gizmos are constantly being developed just so that we don’t have to really make much effort to even leave our homes as we have everything at our fingertips. More and more people work from home, and there are a whole lot of people who can earn a living working for years without needing to physically encounter another human being. For many, this arrangement seems to work just fine. But problems abound when this kind of convenience is wanted and even expected in the area of our spiritual lives.

The very word ‘disciple’ has the same root as the word ‘discipline’. We don’t have to look very hard to see that any discipline in life entails a training, a shaping and an adjustment of sorts. The spiritual life is precisely this – a lifelong training as a disciple of Christ. But perhaps this is not something that is readily acknowledged by many baptized Catholics. In my casual conversations with many adult Catholics, it has become clear to me the notion of Catholics being disciples of the Lord is hardly ever fathomed. Most are just contented to be baptized, almost as a form of membership. Where did this insufficient notion come from? How do we even begin to correct this, let alone point it out? Perhaps a mis-informed catechesis was what started the mal-formed adult Catholic mind and heart.

It is not much wonder then that when such a mind gets influenced by the secular mind , many of us can erroneously expect things of the faith to be reduced to quick sound bites and succinct paragraphs, and have us think that just because we have the one-paragraph answers, we are mature in our spirituality. This becomes evident when many become impatient and even intolerant of God who seems to make things inconvenient and difficult for his beloved people.

Scott M Peck’s book “The Road Less Travelled” comes to mind as I reflect on this, as indeed, it is often the more winding, arduous and discipline-required road that is far less chosen, but it can also be the one that leads us to God in a mature and patient way.


  1. "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." Think the onus is on us... He's always ready to draw near to us, we just have to make the first move and let Him in our lives..

    Father, repeatedly in your blog, you acknowledge that the "misguided notions" stem from incorrect catechesis.. How then can we make a change in this area?

  2. The plaintive cry of the bride in the Song of Songs (3:1-3 ), which finds an echo in the poem of John of the Cross, tells us not only that - God is found with great dis-ease - but that 'NOT finding Him' is a real can be seen in the accounts of the Churches'great saints/holy men/women - eg Mother Teresa who experienced years of great anguish at 'God's seeming absence'.

    The love stories of the soul ( be that of great saints or of ours) centre on man's relentless quest for God/ pursuit of the Holy Grail and somehow, I feel that God is not so much interested in the ultimate fulfillment (consummation ??) but rather in the story of the that a figment of my imagination and is then a futile quest ?

  3. hi tessa, i guess in this day and age, what hurts God even more is that we don't even aspire to chase Him.. i remember it being illustrated in "The God Chasers" by Tommy Tenney that God's like the father figure who likes to play tag with us.. from the book: "He will not frustrate us. God will allow Himself to be caught by us. As a father playing tagwith his child allows himself to be caught by the laughing, loving child, so too will the Heavenly Father allow himself to be caught. In fact, just as you would tire in despair, He will turn and catch you. He wants to be captured by our love." and i believe he eagerly awaits to be caught by us.. If only we would chase Him..

  4. thats very true..
    everybody has been given a seed, to know and to long for God. to seek Him, to be with Him and to love Him. This heart needs a touch. Mass is a celebration of thanksgiving, a chance of receiving grace through reconciliation. Enduring life that full of trials entails alot of faith and yes, failures.. Faith in the Hope of God's deliverance in the end won us, we give God thanks because of this. Sorrowfully we would come before the Lord, that we have learned from our failures and do our best to avoid near occasion of sin. Mass is that. But sometimes, it is not enough. We need more of His in this relationship. Blessing is alright answer "Who do you think i am?" Its rather personal's personal. More than rituals, more than routine, more than acknowledgment that God is Good, God is Love. But i guess, It is not easy to answer who Jesus is to our life. Its more difficult than any question on earth. It takes a whole life time to answer, or even..the answer would be never be good enough im afraid.

  5. Pope Benedict in Jesus of Nazareth wrote:

    "... The arrogance that would make God an object and impose our laboratory conditions upon Him is incapable of finding Him. For it already implies that we deny God as God by placing ourselves before Him, by discarding the whole dimension of love, of interior listening; by no longer acknowledging as real anything but what we can experimentally test and grasp. To think like that is to make oneself god. And to do that is to abase not only God, but the world and oneself, too."

  6. what should we do then, to see God more in our life? We recognised His Love and His way through many events in our life. This, part of experimental test n grasp, not to test the Father, but rather the process of hope of His Deliverance in this pilgrimage. We got the sense of God that is a Father who always kept watch over us, His children. From this, we could see how real His hand is upon our life. But to purposely testing His faithfulness is a total arrogance and that is no love, it’s simply vanity and deep regret. What is best to do? Shall we sit and try to listen in quietness or we pursue wisdom, discussion, worship and serving in order to get closer to Him.

  7. i think Pope Benedict spoke about the "laboratory conditions" in relation to testing God and submitting Him to experiments to see if He'll come through for us.. just as the devil tested Jesus in His 40 days in the desert... However,I feel that our r'ship with God and us drawing nearer to God is not an experiment or put in "laboratory conditions", in the prayer that He taught us, we call him Our Father, in His parables, He is our shepherd and we are his sheep, so intimately related to Him that we recognise His voice amongst the background noise and distractions.

    One interesting sentence in the book "Jesus of Nazareth" that jumped out at me was "We are dealing here with the vast question as to how we can and cannot know God, how we are related to God and how we can lose him." and its a qn to ponder upon..