So far, our Missionary Objectives have looked at human need and how active awareness contributes more to our cause than looking for problems to fix. We have asserted that humans need to be recognized and appreciated in order to thrive spiritually.
We now move on to Objective #3, which is: To make people aware that these needs spring from God's thirst to be known and loved.
Our needs to be noticed and understood… originate with God?
Not that God designed us that way deliberately… but that these are an offshoot of God’s same needs?
Yes. In fact, that is exactly what we are saying.
We know this is going to be a tricky thought for anyone, believers and non-believers and those somewhere in between. Even if you are not inclined to believe such things, we hope you will keep reading if only to see where we are coming from. We feel that the thought process behind our belief is sufficient to retain even those who firmly oppose any notion of deity. If you take the time to see how we form our concepts, you might be able to discern why, and that might be enough to hold your interest. We hope you stay because you are an important contributor to our Mission, and even if you can’t reconcile this God stuff with your own thought processes, we ask that you stick with us – unless you genuinely conclude that pondering “God” is harmful to the cause of fostering human connection, in which case it doesn’t make much sense for you to stay.
Who is this God-with-a-capital-G?
God, in the Jewish and Christian traditions from which this Mission derives, is simultaneously a Father and Creator, the Source of all that exists and One Who loves all of Creation.
This “God” certainly contrasts with other deities who very often (but not exclusively, we note) exhibit attributes we might describe as: demanding, vengeful, greedy, aggressive, tyrannical, or indifferent. If we could only use one term for such traits, we would choose self-focused: acting from desire to gain for the pleasure of one’s self. Certainly, this is neither an exhaustive list nor a challenge to other traditions. It is here for the purpose of contrast.
Likewise, the Judeo-Christian “God” is not simply a force, a master, a creator, or an adversary to evil. As “self-focused” does not fit, unidimensional energy is just as incomplete in attempting to describe this “God” of whom we speak. Furthermore, none of these descriptors reflect the fact that “God” is alone at the top of the hierarchical order. There are no co-gods or goddesses who are equal agents of good or evil in any of the Judeo-Christian traditions.
So what, then, defines this “God”? What sets God apart from other deities?
We could give numerous theological responses and provide plentiful scholarly references. They do exist, and we encourage readers to delve as deeply into such research as they have the desire.
We have our own way of saying it.
We believe the answer is, “Divine Need.”
The Judeo-Christian God to whom we refer in the Mission of Saint Thorlak is a God with a Divine Need: The God who comes time after time to find our ancestors, to find us, to reach out to us, to try multiple ways to demonstrate Himself to us in ways we can understand. To prove that His interest is quiet, meek, and longing for our companionship.
Not longing for just any companionship – longing for our companionship.
Throughout the themes of the Mission of Saint Thorlak, the voluntary humility and wonder and caritas and mentorship, the gentle approach of sincerity, the willingness to need… we are, in fact, imitating the very ways that God Himself is said to have acted since the very beginning of Sacred Scripture.
Genesis 3:9: “Where are you?”
Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Psalm 23:4: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me, your rod and staff comfort me.”
1 John 4:8: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
James 4:8: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
John 3:17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
That last one is a hinge on which Christianity rests – the belief that God loved the people He created so much that He became one of us in order to prove His benevolence.
Once more, we emphasize, our thought here is not a substitution for a theological discourse, nor is it meant to be a catechism of the Christian faith. Rather, we ask readers to put on the mind of a child, just for a moment, and imagine at the heart of Christianity a God who stands quietly, not demanding, not showing off, and in full wisdom of what He is asking... reaching out to us, pleading:
“Can you be My friend?”
More on this, and its implications, next week.
Pray: God… open my heart and mind to this notion that You long to be known and loved.
Contemplate: This week’s thought bypasses a lot of theology and catechism, but does not intend to discard any of that. Can it really be this simple, that the Judeo-Christian God has a need for our recognition and love? Ponder this response: God does not “need” anything from us in order to exist; is it possible, though, that He created us in the hope that we would recognize and love Him?
Relate: How are any of our relationships different than the way we relate to God? People of all beliefs are encouraged to consider this question. The manner in which people relate to one another generally echoes the manner in which they relate in their spiritual experiences.
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak