St. Theophilus of Antioch offers these words for reflection:
If you say, “Show me your God,” I will say to you, “Show me what kind of person you are, and I will show you my God.” Show me then whether the eyes of your mind can see, and the ears of your heart hear.
It is like this. Those who can see with the eyes of their bodies are aware of what is happening in this life on earth. They get to know things that are different from each other. They distinguish light and darkness, black and white, ugliness and beauty, elegance and inelegance, proportion and lack of proportion, excess and defect. The same is true of the sounds we hear: high or low or pleasant. So it is with the ears of our heart and the eyes of our mind in their capacity to hear or see God.
God is seen by those who have the capacity to see him, provided that they keep the eyes of their mind open. All have eyes, but some have eyes that are shrouded in darkness, unable to see the light of the sun. Because the blind cannot see it, it does not follow that the sun does not shine. The blind must trace the cause back to themselves and their eyes. In the same way, you have eyes in your mind that are shrouded in darkness because of your sins and evil deeds.
A person’s soul should be clean, like a mirror reflecting light. If there is rust on the mirror his face cannot by seen in it. In the same way, no one who has sin within him can see God.
But if you will you can be healed. Hand yourself over to the doctor, and he will open the eyes of your mind and heart. Who is the doctor? It is God, who heals and gives life through his Word and wisdom.
Today there is a “genie in the bottle” approach to God. If God exists then God needs to reveal himself to me; according to my will and my expectations. So we rub our bottle and when God does not pop out like an obedient little genie we conclude there is no God.
We are getting it wrong. God is not a genie waiting and hoping to appear according to our wills and in our image. God is God. Further, God owes nothing to us.
The key to seeing and knowing God is not to have God appear according to our will but rather to submit our wills to God. This is the truth that St. Theophilus recognizes. God wants to be known by us, God yearns for relationship with us but the lack in this equation is not on God’s part. The lack is on our part. Just because a blind person cannot see the sun that does not mean that the sun does not exist.
We fool ourselves into thinking that we can hold on to our little sins and know God at the same time! In this case we might have an “idea” of “a God” somewhere out there but we do not know God.
In the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy we hear Moses speaking to the people of Israel,
Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the Lord, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.” For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?
True knowledge of God is not a headtrip. Knowledge of God does not consist in saying the right and accepted thing in a religious studies class on a university campus on a weekday (nothing against religious studies per se) and then acting as if God does not exist over the weekend. We darken our own vision, we limit our own capacity to see and then we get offended when God does not appear to our liking! How dare He! Who does He think He is?!
Knowledge of God is true knowledge which means that all of ones life, all of who one is, must be involved in the encounter with God. To know God means we have to look inward and at ourselves and at our actions and be willing to bring it all before God – the good, the bad and the ugly. The blind must trace the cause back to themselves and their eyes.
We are not good at this depth of knowledge in our day and age and frankly we are not encouraged in it. (People who are not “conscience aware” are more easily controlled and manipulated. They also make for great consumers!) We are getting to a point where the blind are happily leading the blind – who are happily led – while all concerned are resentful of God because God will not play along. Again, how dare He! Who does He think He is?!
But God is God and we are not and I am convinced that we keep God continually amused.
God is nobody’s genie. If we want to know God, which is another way of saying if we want to know true joy and fulfillment in life rather than frustration and despair, then we must play by God’s rules. Not because God is some spoiled overgrown kid demanding his way or no way but because God is the source of all that is good, true and beautiful and God cannot deny himself. When we come to know God we come to know and experience all of this.
“This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.” For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?