Fr. Roy Cimagala .
MANY people often ask about how they would be able to know and love God. The question is understandable, since God is and will always be a mystery to us. No matter how much we try, we can never know and love him fully or enough.
And yet it is actually easy also to know and love him, for the simple reason that he is always around, and everything else in life somehow points us to him if we have the proper disposition or attitude. Besides, he is the most lovable being we can ever have since he is the fullness of goodness which is the reason for loving.
We just have to be wary of our tendency, often unexpressed, of wanting to dominate God by knowing and loving him in such a way that we could not know and love him more.
This danger comes about because of our tendency also to abuse our freedom. In so many words, we actually want to submit God to us or, worse, to be superior to God or even to replace him. We want to know and love him in a way that we cannot know and love him more.
We have to remember that the highest level we can attain in knowing and loving God is when we would finally be in heaven. There we would enjoy what is called as the beatific vision when, as St. John in first letter would describe, “we will be like him (Christ), for we will see him as he is.” (3,2)
But such state is a dynamic one, perpetuating itself for all eternity. It’s not static in such a way that we have already attained the highest level and that there could nothing higher anymore.
We just have to be contented with knowing and loving God in the many ordinary ways we have at hand. In fact, everything in our life, even our problems and the weaknesses, mistakes and sins that we commit, can and should be made use of to know and love God. All of these can be material and occasion for knowing and loving God.
We can know and love God simply by fulfilling the duties of our state in life and of the different positions we occupy in life.
By obeying our lawful authorities, we are actually obeying God because any authority here on earth is always a participation of the authority of God. (cfr Rom 13,1-2)
And then we should try our best that all throughout the day, with our spirit of prayer and contemplation, we would somehow get to know what God is asking of us in a given moment.
We are already given some general ways of knowing and loving him. We have to get to know God through Christ in the Holy Spirit who now inspires the Church and the many instrumentalities in the Church.
We are told to follow his commandments which are already clearly articulated. We have to remember Christ’s words in this regard: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14,15) In short, we have to know as best as we can the will of God at every moment. We have to be discerning of the finer points of that will.
And so, as we are clearly told, we have to learn to pray without ceasing, to love our neighbor as Christ has loved us, to love even our enemies, to forgive others so that we may be forgiven also, to love the cross. We are told that we be productive and fruitful in life, making an accounting of what God has given us.
We have to give special or preferential treatment to the poor, because as Christ said, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25,40)
There are endless ways of knowing and loving God. We just have to do any of them, one at a time!
Our need for silence. We have to realize this more deeply. With all the hustle and bustles of our world today, with all the noise and distractions that we have, we have to exert tremendous effort to maintain silence, both inside and outside us, if only to manage to pray.
Prayer, as we all know, is our basic way of connecting with our father God, the source of all good things. We have to do everything to be able to pray, for without it we would be detaching ourselves from the very foundation of our life.
But given the conditions nowadays, prayer is practically ignored and neglected, and even considered as a nuisance, irrelevant and useless. Thus, many people are now trapped in a world of activism and all forms of self-seeking and self-absorption.
We have to recover the appreciation of prayer and the need for silence and recollection to be able to pray. Christ himself, who is already God, needed to pray. And in spite of the very demanding redemptive work he had to do, he always exerted the effort to find time and the appropriate place to pray.
Many times, he had to wake up early, way before morning, and to go to a deserted place to pray. There were even times when he had to spend the whole night praying. And let’s not forget that before he launched his public life, he spent forty days in a desert to pray and fast.
Christ withdrew from the crowd to have silence and recollection, so indispensable for him to pray. We should also realize that we need to have silence and recollection to keep our relation with God strong and vibrant.
We cannot deny that it is when we manage to have silence and recollection that we can listen more to the voice of God who is actually always intervening in our life. We would become more discerning of God’s will and ways, and more able to be docile to him.
We obviously have to do a lot of self-denial to achieve this ideal condition for prayer. But we should not be surprised by this and should be eager to go through them. Among the things we can do in this regard are to always give priority to a time of prayer and meditation and to look for the appropriate place and time for it.
Ideally, it should be in a place of prayer like a church or chapel and before the Blessed Sacrament. The time is whenever we can be most at peace with God. We have to learn how to get away for the meantime from our usual activities. More than this, we have to know how to silence our passions, and to focus our inner faculties—intelligence, will, imagination, memory, etc.—on God alone.
That’s when we can start to hear and feel the promptings of God. Let’s remember that more than us, it is God who directs our prayer. He is the one who will show us things.
Many times we have to force ourselves to go through this process of attaining silence and recollection for our prayer. We have to convince ourselves that for us to be able to pray, and to persevere in it, we should feel the need for prayer more deeply. We can only pray when we feel that need rather than when we depend on our wanting to pray.
That is part of the self-denial Christ is asking of us. We should go beyond feelings and wanting. With our will, always supported by God’s grace, we can manage to pray in spite of contradicting or uncooperative feelings.
When we manage to have silence and recollection in our moments of meditation, it is likely also that we can manage to have them when we get immersed in our daily routine of work and other concerns. This is an art and skill that is so badly needed these days.