20 May, Wednesday — Unknown and Unknowable

Wednesday of 6th Week of Eastertide

Acts 17:15, 22-18:1
Jn 16:12-15

To An Unknown God

On the way to the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd one day for some personal prayer time, I was stopped by a couple of our non-Catholic, Christian brothers just outside the gates. They took pains to evangelize about the theology of the Second Coming of Christ. I understood this to be the key mission of this particular denomination of Christianity (I could be wrong – pardon me if I am). Unfortunately, soon enough, they got into a critique of a number of Catholic doctrines and practices; I thought to myself, “Here we go again! Sigh!” 

It is something I have long given up trying to fathom. What I wonder most is — how much division this has caused when, in the words St Paul to the Corinthians 3:4, we stand for Apollos or for Paul or for one doctrine over another. Or for one heretical belief to another such as — that Christ was merely a human being, or that salvation is merely a personal embrace of God through his Word, or that salvation is assured for those whom God blesses with earthly riches and success — the list goes on. 47,000 interpretations of the ‘truth’ of the Christian faith (that’s the ‘official’ number of Christian denominations to-date). Sadly, this encounter continued to deepen my negative impression of how many Christians, not just these two brothers in particular, but even misguided Catholics as well, who try so very hard to squeeze the immensity and unknowability of God, into the puniness of the human mind and spirit. We just can’t seem to stop doing this, no matter how hard we try.

Pathetic – that’s what I feel, are humanity’s desperate attempts to externalize God into our multiplicity of theologies, philosophies, ideologies and beliefs. How Christian salvation can be ‘guaranteed’ by how much wealth one has, how many degrees from theological colleges, how many sacramentals on display in the home, in the church, how many chapters of scripture committed to memory,  or how many people of prominence in politics and church they claim to be ‘connected’ to and are part of their congregation.  There was even that one ‘church’ in Korea which insists that if you are blessed by God, you will not get sick – not just Covid19 but ANY sickness (does this mean that such ‘Christians’ can only eventually die by getting hit by a bus or struck by lightning or by a bullet through the head or such like circumstances and not by any form of illness?). Gosh!!

To be dead honest, I do see this as one major way the evil one tries to lead the faithful astray through division, confusion, deception and most importantly, from the true presence of Christ in the universal, Catholic, sacramental, apostolic and Eucharistic faith.

Let me offer this instead. I know of a parishioner — Michelle (not her real name) – who has shown me by the way she has lived her faith, the essence of true Christian faith. The tenets of her faith are simple but fundamental. Unwaveringly and unchangingly, her messages to me are always — to trust God, keep praying, keep holding on to Him when times are hard; follow His path every day, love God by loving others, seek God in the Eucharist, stay faithful to the Catholic faith; be devoted to Mother Mary and the Holy Rosary, love others sincerely, remain humble, always be grateful, always forgive (as she did her husband), God is always in charge and God will always love us and know what is best for us, follow His will no matter how tough it is. Simple. Fundamental. Eternal. Godly. Christian. Catholic.

You see, Michelle is not well-educated, nor successful, nor rich, nor powerful, nor a person of great prestige nor influence. She is a nobody. She is a single mother, abandoned by her husband for another woman, having to single-handedly raise her son, who was so traumatized by the divorce as to become mentally unstable. Her son, nearing forty, due to this mental illness caused by the trauma of the divorce, has never held a job in his life. Due to her own very difficult family circumstances, Michelle herself only managed to study till her PSLE in order to support her family as early as she could. But Michelle has shown me time and time again, she had more wisdom in her than all the ‘learned’ people and all these ‘theologians’ I know put together. She had more fidelity to God, more Christian courage and fortitude, more genuine and selfless love for God and for humanity.

And so, to the many ‘great theologians’ out there who seem to add more division and confusion more than anything else, to the universality of what true Christianity is, and has always been intended to be by God, let me urge you to take a lesson from Michelle. It is time to save yourselves from your arrogance, your audacity, your foolishness, your ludicrous claims to ‘wisdom’. To think you could ever begin to even know, our unknowable God.

Michelle, in the simplicity and purity of her faith, allows herself to be led by the Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Mother – to know that her God is not one to be known but to be loved, not to be rationalized but to be understood, not to be seen but to be experienced, not to be externalized but to be deeply internalized. Michelle knows that God is simply someone we need to allow to be loved by, and to love in return. To Michelle, there is no need to understand God, but to simply know that He understands us. And that there is only but one thing to be done – that is, no matter what, simply to love God and to be loved by Him. People like Michelle who have truly lived their Christianity, these are the wise and the learned … schooled by life … life lived deeply with God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father help us. Save us from our own arrogance, pride and foolishness from all the confusion and division we have caused from the errors of our ways. When we are so busy trying to know you, that we have long since forgotten how to love you, and to love others because of you.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for those you have sent us to show by their example, the depth of the love you have for us and how we too need only to respond in love to you and for others because of that love. A love that defies all understanding. A love that is infinite and unknowable.

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