Ain’t that the question? We hear it asked in the obligatory religious/existential/identity crisis episode of just about any TV series, usually spewed by some stupid, emotional minor character who ends up settling for some vague, silly form of religion. We hear it asked by children and adults alike, only children have the sense to ask the real question, while adults waffle, asking things like “What is the higher purpose of my life?” or “how can I be happy?” Every now and then we hear it asked honestly, by a friend who has been abused, had a family member die, or has been diagnosed with disease. “Where is God?” Interestingly enough, I’ve often heard the question asked by our modern atheists. They’ll deny his existence fervently while life is good, they’ll laugh at his laws and continue having sex with their girlfriends, but when 9/11 happens, when the Virginia Tech shootings happen, suddenly God exists enough to be accused. Where was God? It seems that we can’t stop looking, even when we don’t believe there is anything to look for.
As Catholics, we are enormously privileged in regards to this oft-asked question. Think back to your rosaries, think back to the scripture of The Finding in the Temple. In a very real and tangible way, Mary and Joseph are asking; where is God? They left the Passover feasts, returning home to Nazareth to find that Jesus was no longer with them. Moving away from the literal interpretation of the passage and towards a more personal view, a beautiful truth is revealed. We to often go through periods of great feasting. We’ve all had – and we all will have – moments of intimacy with the Lord. We’ve periods of satisfying and fulfilling prayer. We’ve had weeks, months, perhaps even years of our lives that we’ve let our God guide and shape. We’ve been on retreats, heard God, felt God. We’ve lived well. But when we are walking away from that, when God asks us to turn back to our home towns, our daily existence, we often are shocked. Suddenly God seems absent. Where is God? That peace that once filled us evaporates in the face of a sinful and convoluted world, and our ears close shut to the whisper of the Holy Spirit in fear of being deafened by the millions of throbbing distractions our lives and our culture offer us.
And so, like Mary and Joseph, we freak out. Where are you Jesus? We go to our friends for help, but that can only do so much, our friends are not God, and are usually experiencing similar things.
Then, in the midst of our frantic searching, we stumble into Church. And, quietly and lovingly, God asks us the following: “Did you not know I would be at my father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) For Catholics, this verse should rock our faces. This verse should be so meaningful and so layered that our minds should explode.”Did you not know I would be here in the tabernacle? Did you not know that I humbled myself to become bread and wine for this very purpose? Did you not know that I am here, physically present, no matter how distant you have made yourself to me? Did you not know, when you left you spiritual feasts, that the Most Holy Feast is here to give you strength every day? Did you not know? I told you! I told you, you must eat my Body and drink my Blood! I told you to pray to the Father for this Awesome and Daily Bread! I am here! Where is God? Where is God? Tell me, child, where on earth have YOU been?”
One of the hardest things about being Protestant – so I am told by various ex-Protestants – is the need for emotional and spiritual affirmation. Of course this need isn’t limited to Protestants. I depended on emotional affirmation for a while, and it almost wrecked my faith. I spoke a little of the thing in my post on Confession. At big moments in life, in prayer and in worship, there is the unspoken sense that you must experience some sort of feeling, some sort of spiritual gratification. How do you know you’re forgiven? I feel forgiven. How do you know you are loved? I feel loved. But we are human creatures! We cannot possibly be that open all the time! We cannot possibly “feel” all the time! In the words of the Avett Brothers:
People, people, people, they make it sound so easy
They say just do what your heart tells you to
But sometimes you cannot feel it
Sometimes you cannot hear it
Sometimes it won’t talk back to you
The Eucharist is God, there for us regardless of how we feel. So yes, all praise to Him, I can be in full union with God when I’m filled with guilt over being such a bad Catholic. I can be in complete union with him when I feel like complete crap. But at the same time, it’s important to realize that, just because God chooses to meet us on this physical level, it doesn’t mean that there ISN’T and spiritual and emotional gratification that comes with the Eucharist. There have been times when I have received the Eucharist, knelt down and wept, the grace of God was so tangible in my chest. I’m going to be as honest as I can, the Eucharist is the only reason I give a damn about evangelization amongst other Christians. That might not be proper to say, but it expresses how I feel in adoration, that this, this, this is what I would die for. This is what I sell my soul for. This is redder than my blood and more real than reality itself. It’s glory is so immense, so huge, that every argument against God fades in it’s brilliant reality. It can only be fully expressed by, well:
But the presence of God would be there regardless of how I feel. (How about you? Have you had any intense experiences with the Holy Eucharist?)
So the next time a friend asks you “Where is God?” for the love of all things holy, don’t explain to him that God is in your heart, or that God is in the beautiful, sunny day outside. Take him to adoration, sit him down, point to the Eucharist and say “There He is.” Because that’s what Christ tells us. I think I shall write more on the Eucharist next, perhaps a stellar proof of it’s reality.