One of the most profound aspects of the Christian Faith is that it is a personal relationship with God. Many of the great faiths of the world are either more philosophies of life and living (such as Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism); or, have as their paradigm a person who is the founder or prophet such as Mormonism, and Christian Scientism; or view God in a transcendent and detached relationship as Islam does. Our elder brothers and sisters in the Judaic Faith to a degree share our singular and personal relationship with God, but they haven’t accepted the intimately personal relationship of God among us as man. They don’t accept that God came among us as Jesus Christ. But, be that as it may, they recognize the personal concern of God in our lives and His participation in our journey.
I am reminded of this every time I hear or read the past Sunday’s first reading from Genesis – I am struck by God’s closeness.
“The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre,as he sat in the entrance of his tent,while the day was growing hot. Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said:“Sir, if I may ask you this favor,please do not go on past your servant. Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet,and then rest yourselves under the tree. Now that you have come this close to your servant,let me bring you a little food,that you may refresh yourselves;and afterward you may go on your way.”
‘Sir’, Abraham greets the three men as ‘Sir’. Does he recognize God as Trinity, in front of him? It might seem so. I like to think so. Some great men of the Church like St. Augustine think so; and of course the famous icon by Rublev is written as so (icons are considered written not painted). In this reading we have a God, who visits us, all three persons came among us and met us where we are. Even those who don’t necessarily think it was a visit of the Trinity it is, at the very least, a foreshadowing of God as Trinity.
What this highlights is that for Catholics we live our faith not as philosophy that we try to emulate or some great and glorious code that makes us better people. Our faith is personal, relational; as well as the reason for our being. Our Creator is intimately concerned with our very welfare; He has come among us in varied ways, and ultimately became one of us to reveal to us His very being. He did this not just to be with us; but since we are a creation of His, our very being, in its most full and healthy state is of the same makeup as His. As sons and daughters share their parents’ physical attributes even more so do we share with our creator His spiritual attributes. We are of God, we are best when we allow ourselves to be, as St Paul said in the second reading: ‘perfect in Christ’.
But in addition to being of God, we are joyful and blessed that He is among us. He isn’t some aloof creator, He is intimate. He has walked among us; He lives within His mystical body, the Church; He is alive in the lives of saints – He is part of our family. To be a faithful Catholic means that we can’t live any other way and we look forward to when He comes among us yet again. And we are assured of His return, we hear at the end of the first reading God fully intends to be among us: “I will surely return to you …”Indeed the Bible ends with the words: “…“Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
If those around us truly grasp this aspect of our faith they would not be wondering why we act as we do: why we speak our faith; why we demand to live our faith openly; why we seem so stubborn when challenged. We are a proud and loving family; proud of our God and loving to all.