Saturday, March 12, 2011

Finding God

Spiritual writer Anthony de Mello insisted that there was such a thing as "One Minute Wisdom."

He meant that insights and "aha moments" occur to us in an instant.

He tells the story of a student who asked the Master, "But surely one minute is too brief?" And the Master replied, "It is fifty-nine seconds too long!"

The disciple was puzzled, and the Master explained, "How much time does it take to catch sight of the moon? Opening one's eyes may take a lifetime, but seeing is done in a flash."

Later another disciple asked, "Where can I find God?"

The Master answered, "He's right in front of you!"

"Then why do I not see him?"

"Why does the drunkard fail to see his home? You must find out what makes you drunk. To see God you must be sober!"

And yet another pleaded, "Help us to find God."

"No one can help you there."

"Why not?"

"For the same reason that no one can help the fish to find the ocean."

Poet Mary Oliver probes the mystery too, in her poem "Summer Day."

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean --
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down --
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Finding God should be easy, but it's not, even with the help of the Baltimore Catechism. I remember well the question and answer:
Q. Where is God?
A. God is everywhere.

It was a reassuring answer, but I was puzzled. Teacher said God was indeed everywhere, but apparently not so much in Buddhism, Hinduism, or even in the Protestant churches.

Our supposed Catholic monopoly on God was unsustainable.

The Bishops at Vatican II clarified it a bit when they said that the sole Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, but many elements of sanctification and truth are found outside its visible confines.

Where there is truth, there is God. I believe that the fullness of the Gospel is found in the Catholic tradition, but I have to acknowledge that God can be found elsewhere too. It would be unconscionable to think a little Buddhist child could not go to heaven.

St. Thomas Aquinas advised us not to be prejudiced by the sources of our information. When something is good, he said, we should commit it fast to memory.

We need not fear the truth wherever we find it. We should not be surprised if God pops up in the unlikeliest places.

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