17 May, 2010

'Guess Whose Coming to Dinner': Finding God in Each Other

'Guess Whose Coming to Dinner': Finding God in Each Other 

Ever wonder what God’s address is? Whenever we search for someone in the real or virtual world, we need an address to find them. We can find just about anyone’s civic address or phone number through any number of online and tradition sources. On the Internet, we can search of an email address or a IP address which will lead us to find them. No matter where we search, the first thing that we look for if we want to find someone is their address.

So what is God’s address?

Barrels of ink have been spilled by theologians and mystics over the millennium trying to explain where God lives. Sometimes the search begins by searching   the heavens to see if God can be found among the stars. Today many search our ecosystem to see if some clue to the Divine address can be discerned through understanding the patterns and designs in nature. Mystics have searched every corner of the ‘dark night’ of the soul and the ecstasies of life, laughter and love to listen for a whispered voice revealing God’s hiding place.  These efforts have led us to discover where it is that God can be found.  He is at home in us.

Barbara Jones Taylor, a professor at Piedmont College in Georgia  has perhaps said it best in her book ‘An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith’ (Harper One), our body is the “address of the soul.” From the moment of our conception and more fully in the second birth of baptism, the Divine takes up residence in our body, fusing our existence with his until that day when He takes his leave. So long as believers live... God lives as well.

Alas, like so many of the truths of the Christian faith, many have lost sight of this truth.  Some interpret life through the lens of various ‘new age’ spiritualities, each a modern form of pantheism, believing that creation itself is god.  For Christians, such an understanding robs humanity of the richness of the scriptural and patristic traditions which teach that it is this indwelling of God establishes our fraternal relationship with Him through the person of Christ.  Christians believe that they are ‘enfleshed souls’, endowed with the essential gifts of free will, consciousness and individuality which together forms our personality.  To use a colloquial expression familiar to many Catholics, our bodies are ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’. Just as Christ, the perfect exemplar of the hypo-static union, is fully God and human at the same time, so too do all humans share in a similar blending of the divine and the profane, at least so long as life continues.

What are the implications of such a union? Fundamentally it explains our state in life - it determines who we see ourselves. Are we simply flesh and blood, neurons and electrical charges, the product of Darwinian natural selection, or are we something more? Does our life not give God a 'local address’ where he coexists with us who become living, breathing, walking, talking earthly tabernacles of the Holy Spirit? If this is true, then logically each stage of life, from the experiences in the womb through to its natural end,  is a moment in which God's presence and grace is made manifest on earth.

Christians and Jews dare not  deny Him his right of occupancy. We are fully capable of culminating our life should that be our will, but to do so out of a selfish belief that it is something that we alone possess is not an option for believers. For them, life is something that is better thought of not as ‘property’ we own, but as time leased to us for our exclusive use.  We 'signed' our lease on life at the moment of conception - that particular moment which started our headlong race through life to death. If we want out of the lease before its end, there's   going to be a cost, penalties that can only be paid in the life to come. One might object that this was not a 'deal' that he signed on for, and  he is therefore free to 'move out' at the date and time of his choosing. For others, existence is little more than the culmination of natural forces that exist for no particular purpose in itself. This existential nihilism is expressed well in Woody Allan's 'Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex but Were Afraid To Ask' (MGM: 1972).  ‘Existence’ is little more than the result of one individual sperm which 'won' a race from the testicles to the ovum.  Life is thus reduced then to just a matter of (good/bad) luck and (fortuitous/unfortunate) timing.  There's no more mystery to it than that. For atheists, one does not need God or the Bible to explain life - any rudimentary sex education film will suffice.

Such a belief is antithetical to orthodox Christians and Jews alike.  For them, God exists not only in the spiritual realm but in and through their existence. Thus, He exists here so long as his believers do. He is part of our familial gestalt. To deny his presence in our history is to deny the kyrgma by which life has been formed and lived, however imperfectly, for over 3000 years both internally and communally. It is this belief that fuels the pro-life passion to promote the sanctity of life from conception to its natural end. Believers understand that existence is not something that we can either pick up or put down on our own volition. One might easily enough make another person, but one cannot replicate him  self. (Each person is a biological and psychological repository of the years and is unique).  To end life for no reason other than as existential exercise to prove ones sovereignty over existence, would make necessary God's 'eviction' from one's life. That is the operational definition of an atheist - one who ‘evicts’ God from his life.  For theists, God is our roommate in life. We do not have the right to 'kick him out' even if at times we think of him to be an onerous tenant.

So long as the children of Abraham, Isaac and Israel live, God will always have an address here on earth. He is at home with them because they are all of one family in faith, even if they disagree on the issue of the Messiah. So long as one person believes in the biblical Covenant of the Hebrew Scriptures, God will have a home here on earth.

Fr. Tim

No comments:

Post a Comment

Followers of this blog:

Blog Archive

Google Analytics