In our first blog on our search for the one called god, we finished with the question. What, or where is the God that Christians believe in?
And last month I came across a short reflective paragraph online by a Maltese priest friend of mine which gave me some moments of thought:
“We have insisted for centuries that matter and spirit are two opposites and separate. But the material world is where the spirit is revealed. Actually, they are already one… as in Jesus.”Karm Debattista mssp -- daily reflections Facebook
I said to myself that that’s what incarnation is all about. That’s where we should, therefore, find The One God we are searching for. “Everywhere” -- Some people find this far too easy to accept and implement in their lives. It’s as if we are expected to work hard so that we can link with The One and Only.
In philosophy, there is a tenet that crops up in many different theories and that is that we can find (or get a glimpse of) the creator through the work created (Magee, 1998). Therefore, a beautifully crafted chair would give us an inkling that the carpenter who produced it so lovingly appreciated beauty and functionality… and perhaps even comfort… in this small creation of a chair. By that logic, a beautiful sunset can easily be equated with a God painting this evening just for us, today!
We can take that concept further by considering that everything we do, especially so if creative, displays the influence that exists in us of our Creator too.
St Augustine, one of the early Church Bishops whose thoughts have formulated a lot of the basic Christian philosophical thought in the early days, once addressed God saying that he had been searching for Him for so long, that he looked for Him everywhere but still couldn’t find Him… until he realised that He was inside Him… and all around Him.
The whole universe conspiring
“The Alchemist”, one of Paulo Coelho’s most popular novels deals about this young man Santiago, a goatherd who begins to realise that there is a treasure somewhere which he has to go and find. In a way, he feels it’s his destiny. He starts off in search and crosses to the north African coast, continues through the deserts and meets other people in their oasis who help him find himself and his mission… to go on to the Egyptian pyramids, where his treasure should be.
If you watched the video will have realised by now that in Coelho’s works there is an underlying spiritual thread going through… if you are able to spot it. Yet when Santiago arrives at the pyramids. He realises that the treasure he was searching for was actually where he had been at the beginning, where he started. It was with him all along and he hadn’t realised this.
Coelho wrote The Alchemist in only two weeks in 1987. He explained that he was able to write at this pace because the story was “already written in [his] soul.” The book’s main theme is therefore about finding one’s destiny, although according to The New York Times, The Alchemist is “more self-help than literature”. The advice given Santiago throughout his search is that “when you really want something to happen, the whole universe will conspire so that your wish comes true.” It is the core of the novel’s philosophy and a motif that plays through it.
God is the universe that’s all around us, that we sometimes realise is helping us along and protecting us even if the moment we are going through may not be so positive or overshadowed by the unknown…. Yet, later on, when all is said and done and we are able to look back and survey the whole story, we might realise that through a series of coincidences our experiences have had a positive result after all.
A missionary friend of mine told me some time ago that many of us have read that God’s ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8) and that we often quote these verses too. “But often, when I hear people talk, all I hear them say is that our ways are God’s ways!” I guess that this happens when we do not allow the “Universe” to conspire to make our situation come through!
He had added that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James: 1:27) This is the understanding of Christianity before it became theoretic and theological -- to take care of the defenceless and oppressed while freeing ourselves from the mentality (system) of this world.
The 20th-century Trappist monk Thomas Merton puts it rather succinctly in many of his writings. He is a special kind of priest, living in solitude for most of the time, in his cell in the middle of a forest. Yet he somehow has a grasp of the reality of things because he admits his shortcomings before acknowledging the graces from God that lead to his spirituality. And I have used one of his most well-known quotes for the image accompanying this post because I do believe that one of our prime responsibilities in life is to love others without stopping to check if they are worthy of it or not!
Today we could add to that shortlist of people mentioned in the photo above that Merton suggests we should try to reach out to and help…. because the Universe has brought them across our paths..… these include the old aged (possibly also suffering from dementia), others who have had recourse to an abortion for whatever reason (perhaps even through the pressure of their partner), or those who have suffered a natural miscarriage. Those suffering from mental diseases (depression for one), or cancer, diabetes or a cardiac problem that debilitates them. You can add your own thoughts here too if you like. And I might also add asylum seekers in this day and age.
Do we have to be compassionate with people who suffer?
The way I look at being compassionate with our fellow citizens of this world, is not to see them as a miserable lot but to see them as people who have been put on my path because the One and Only has chosen me, for whatever reason I was not informed of (and will not be told until I breathe my last) but purely because God has graced me (and you) with the special gift through which they could benefit if I only allow myself to share it. Merton wrote in his daily journal compiled in the Fifties and Sixties, that “we need to train our minds to see the good in everything…. (God may be in there somewhere!).”
And in all this I again see the Coelho Universe conspiring all along to help us … the hand of God that works through us and through which we get thanked with a “God Bless You”! Because, in Merton’s words:
“The darkness is thinning and expects the sun. Birds begin to sing. Everything is waiting for the resurrection!”
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Coelho, P. (2017). The alchemist. London: HarperCollins Publishers.
Karm Debattista mssp. (n.d.). Daily reflections on Facebook. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/Karm-Debattista-mssp-134699929971034/
Magee, B. (1998). The story of philosophy. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.
Merton, T. (2005). A year with Thomas Merton: Daily meditations from his journals. (J. Montido, Ed.) New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.