“Let not your heart be troubled, you know the way, the way to life, the way to heaven.”
On this last day of the year 2020, looking back, I have never been so eager to see the chance for a new and better year. It is good that we have the habit of seeing ourselves as starting fresh each January 1st. Of course, as Church, we started our new Church year on the first Sunday of Advent. During Advent we had a communal celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation. This sacrament grants us the awesome experience of wiping the slate clean and bringing us back to our original baptismal state of blessing. We literally have the chance to start fresh.
As human beings we need new chances to get things right because we are prone to messing up and getting things terrible wrong. I am grateful that my faith tradition understands human nature and offers us remedies so we never have to feel stuck or feel lost. We are offered opportunities to start over.
Most people believe there is a God of some kind. In our country there are various views of God and each view determines the way people respond to God. The view of God determines how people relate to God and to one another and how they live in this world.
Some people believe in a kindhearted, compassionate God who is caring and involved in human affairs. Others think of a far-off God quite removed from human concerns. Still others think of God as critical; a God who judges everything people do and sees most of human activity with disapproval. In our country many believe in an Authoritarian Father God, judgmental and demanding. Then there are those who believe in many gods, each god specific to some quality or power experienced in nature.
None of our views of God are God. We humans are finite beings and God is infinite and beyond all our imaginings. We are as likely to grasp what God is like as a baby in the womb is likely to grasp what its mother is like. Humans are babies in the womb. We have only just begun to grasp what the earth is and our earth lies in a tiny solar system in the fringe of a vast galaxy, which is part of a vast universe in a vast cosmos. God lies beyond all the things that we barely know.
And yet, our faith tradition teaches us that somehow God expects us to remember what God is like, who we are in God, and what we are called to do. It’s a paradox. We are meant to hold the contradiction together: that we can know God and that God is completely and utterly unknowable. We are to expect that God is intimately involved with each individual person and at the same time expect that God is beyond all and everything. Thankfully, we do not need to understand or comprehend how this can be so; we just need to hold both/and together. And we have the miracle of Christ Jesus.
As for atheists, not believing in God is not their fault. It is the images of God that people have proclaimed to them that they reject, not God. The images of God they hear about are too small, too narrow, to intolerant, too bigoted, too unbelievable. As if God were some big Father up in the sky who needed to be appeased, flattered, and catered to if you are to avoid trouble. Or as if God were Santa Claus, who will reward you for being good, but not if you are naughty. I reject those God images, too.
In this Christmas season as we start a new year, I am grateful that God sent Wisdom/Christ incarnate as Jesus to earth so we can know what God is like and know what it is like to be fully human. We can start fresh and attempt to get things right this new year by deciding to be more Christ-like – compassionate, accepting of others, kind, caring, forgiving, peaceful, joyful, and filled with hope for the coming of God’s Beloved Community.
My beloved ones, let’s go into the new year with hope.