Finding God; Where to Start Looking

Where is God? This is the universal question of our minds, hearts, and souls.  We look for God in all the right places, but often come up without a sense of true encounter.  Emptiness, loneliness, and feeling of abandonment follows us as we search and search.  I am reminded of the haunting, sad song “Where is Love” from the musical Oliver.  But maybe all the right places are not so right after all.  Perhaps we will meet God most authentically in the faces of those who suffer. After all, this is just where Jesus points us.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta found and recognized God best in the faces of every orphan, invalid, leper, and impoverished sufferer.  It was from them that her infectious joy and boundless compassion came.  Mother Teresa was following the directive of Jesus who said; “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

My own search took me from church to church, and from tradition to tradition.  But I best found God in the boys, girls, and adults who came to me suffering from horrible abuse, often with chronic substance use disorders.  They were at the end of their ropes. The people closest to them usually had given up all hope.  And sure enough, there was God in disguise.  The pain in their eyes reflected the pain of Jesus. They carried the weight of a cross I never had to carry. It soon became clear that those I had come to serve were actually serving me.

In answer to the question posed at the beginning of this journal; God is hiding in plain sight.  If we are open to becoming vulnerable and are willing to risk suffering with those in pain, we will find God and Jesus everywhere.

An Inconvenient Truth

“The call to the margins, led by those we find there, is exhilarating and life-giving and renews our nobility and purpose.  For this, we all long. The time is now, as never before, to put terror and defense to one side and find our human connections on the margins.” ~ Gregory Boyle (Founder of Homeboys Industries)

It isn’t more power, more prosperity, more armaments or closed borders we need. None of these things will give us long-term security.  None of these things will keep us safe. We become more vulnerable to destruction from within when we isolate from ‘the other’ in self-woven cocoons.  Instead, we need to reach out for the hand of those on the margins, those who are broken, and those who understand how interdependent we really are. We go to the marginalized not to make a difference but for them to make us different.

Martin Luther King called us to serve “the last, the least, and the lost.” Jesus instructs us to include not exclude as he invites tax collectors and prostitutes to his table.  He tells us “that which you do to the least of my brothers, so you do unto me.”  Buddha dedicated his entire life for the cause of others, for the uplift of humanity at large. He was the first to revolt against the caste system which was firmly rooted in the soil of India. One of the great reforms that the Prophet Muhammad brought was the rights and treatment of the poor. And so we struggle with an inconvenient truth.  We must drop our moral outrage and pick up compassion in its place. When we do that wonderful things will begin to happen in our lives and in our world.

The Miracle of Self-Sacrifice

Rescue worker remove fatally injured New York City Fire Department chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge from one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, early September 11, 2001.

Sacrifice is the miracle that makes great things possible.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-sacrifice is a miracle in action. There are times when our world seems to be driven by greed and selfishness. One of the most powerful things to experience is a personal observation of one who freely gives for the sake of others.  This story is one we watch unfold during the Christian observance of Holy Week.

Self-sacrifice is the act of deliberately following a course of action that has a high risk or certainty of suffering. We have witnessed such selfless action by our children as they cry out for an end to gun violence.  They have exposed themselves at great cost.  Pope Francis offered his support for their sacrifice in his Palm Sunday homily.

Such action always entails personal loss which could otherwise be avoided in order to achieve a benefit for others. It carries a powerful message saying; ‘There is something I want more than life itself. There is something more important.’

We are sanctifying our actions when we make sacrifices. The drive to make a personal difference, whether by living a life of service or rising to the occasion when it becomes clear that someone must, is the essence of self-sacrifice. We trade the uncertainty of options for the certainty of gloom when we surrender to despair. Life isn’t filled only with difficulty and pain. It is also filled with people whose dignity and spirit rise above their circumstances. There are situations when great sacrifice or love and wisdom turn a problem into an opportunity and strength. If we look at what has happened in our own lives and in those of others, we have ample reason to hope. This hope can change the world.

Today I will embrace self-sacrifice to make a difference!