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God’s Call and Our Response

by Joan McKamey

When I was a new mother, a woman from our parish oohed and aahed over our daughter and then went on to tell the story behind the indentation between one’s nose and upper lip. She said this indentation is the impression left by an angel’s finger before each baby is born. The angel has told the baby “not to tell” what heaven is like.

In the years since that incident, I often find myself fingering that indentation. My friend’s sweet story truly touches a chord in me. I am made for union with God. From my very beginning, my quest has been to reunite with my creator.

When I really think about that, I sit up straighter in my chair, put an extra polish on my work, pause to smile before answering the phone, bite my tongue before letting a sharp comment slip, listen more intently, laugh more often and pray more: I try to be the person God created me to be.

Universal desire

Through all of time, humans have longed for and sought union with God. This is reflected in various writings from our tradition. Psalm 42 reads: “My soul longs for you, O God” (v.1). St. Augustine wrote: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we find: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God” (#27).

My own personal favorite quote is from Blaise Pascal, the 17th-century French mathematician, physicist and theologian. He wrote: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”

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Paths to God

We each have three main paths by which we can come to God: through creation, the human person and revelation. Each of these paths has played a significant role in my journey toward God—in different ways and at different times in my life.

1. Creation

As a “farm kid” growing up in the Midwest, I was opened to the wonder of God through the marvels of his creation. From childhood car rides during which I thought the moon was following me to nights of spending time with the stars in the dark country sky, I knew God was there. From the wonder of watching a calf being born to the struggle for detachment when animals were butchered or sold, I knew God was in those experiences too.

A farming community’s need for good weather helped me realize how dependent we all are on God. We prayed for rain. We prayed that it would stop raining. God was closely tied to the bounty of creation as well as the forces of nature that might kill crops and livestock. Sunshine followed storms. Spring followed winter. Good years followed lean. God was trusted to see us through whatever hardships we encountered and praised for whatever blessings we enjoyed.

My farm upbringing isn’t universally shared, but I believe that my experience of finding God in creation is. A beautiful sunrise or sunset, a hike in the woods, a breathtaking mountain view, fall leaves, the power of the ocean surf—all of these and so much more are evidence of an intelligent, wise and eternal Creator.

2. The Human Person

As human persons, wonderfully made as part of God’s creation, we have a second path to God through our human experience. It is part of our spiritual nature to seek truth and to experience goodness and happiness. We treasure freedom and are guided by our consciences. The more we become aware of our spiritual selves, the more we will be convinced that it is God, and only God, who will fill the emptiness, satisfy the loneliness and calm the restlessness that plague so many of us.

My own journey into adulthood has been one of increasing surrender to God. Each inch of surrender seems to have come after a failed attempt to fill my emptiness or settle my restlessness with something of this world. As I become more independent in the eyes of the world, the more I depend on God and realize my need for God and just how spiritually poor I am. I am my best me when I remember that God is God, and I am not.

As I get to know God better, I’m also getting to know myself better—and even get a glimpse at times of the person God created me to be. With God’s help and patience, maybe I’ll actually grow into that person someday.

3. Revelation

A third significant way that I come to God is through turning to God’s revelation in Sacred Scripture. God’s clearest revelation is in Jesus Christ, so it probably isn’t surprising that, like many others, I turn to the Gospels and other New Testament writings for guidance and to come to know God better. It was through Jesus that I first developed my own personal relationship with God, turning to Jesus as a friend in my teen years.

The most regular way that I turn to the Scriptures for God’s revelation is at Sunday Eucharist. I like to review the readings myself as part of my preparation time before Mass begins. It’s usually when I hear them proclaimed later during the Mass that a passage may strike me in a new or significant way. I have had many experiences when I’ve heard God speaking a message of comfort, hope or challenge to me in the present day through the words of Scripture written long ago.

A passage that touched me recently is “…the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). The thought of God’s peace guarding both my heart and mind is quite comforting. It brings me a measure of peace to turn to God in prayer in anxious or uncertain times and to pray for God’s peace to guard me in Christ.

It’s not easy living as a Christian in our world and American culture today. We find ourselves seeking God in a culture that supports or accepts our belief in God but which in many ways challenges the morals we have and choices we make that are based on that faith. Things that are accepted or “expected” in many of our circles challenge our Christian values and morals. Many people seem to live with a veneer of Christianity, but the “isms” of our society (consumerism, materialism, racism, sexism, ageism, etc.) lie not so far under the surface.

Call and response

Jesus asked us to be in the world but not of it. I sometimes feel as though I’m walking along the fence rail that separates these two. It’s a difficult distinction to make—in the world but not of it. The choices that might make me feel good about myself, those that make me look good to some people and those that make me good in God’s eyes differ greatly. It depends on how I define feeling “good” for myself and whose opinion matters more to me—the world’s or God’s.

One thing I know for certain is that God is calling each of us. Many of us are so busy, and the noise of this world can be so loud, that we fail to listen for God’s call. When we turn off the racket long enough to hear the birdsong, take in the beauty of a sunset, get in touch with the longings and promptings of our hearts, and listen for God’s message of comfort, hope or challenge in Sacred Scripture—it is in those moments that we open ourselves to hear God’s call. And once we hear God’s call, we are able to respond more fully with our lives.

The theme of this article is drawn from Ch.1 and 2 (pp.1-19) of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

Joan McKamey worked professionally as a catechist and D.R.E. before joining the staff at St. Anthony Messenger Press. She holds a master’s in Religious Studies/Pastoral Family Studies from the College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati.

Next: The World Jesus Knew

    

Questions

• Where do you find God in creation? How does it speak to you about God? What does it say to you about God’s love for you?

• What is your favorite Gospel story about Jesus? What message of comfort, hope or challenge does God speak to you through this Scripture passage?

• Only God can fill our emptiness and quiet our restlessness, yet we seek satisfaction in the things of this world instead. Does this describe you at times? What do you need to do to grow in spiritual awareness so that God’s opinion matters more to you than the world’s?

 

 

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