Monday, January 16, 2017

into His presence

Thomas Keating tells us today about coming confidently into God's presence in A Daily Reader for Contemplative Living.

And that brings up a strange phenomenon. We can "come before God"? Aren't we always "before God"? Because He's omnipresent, right? The Psalms say "where can I flee from Your presence?" And the answer is: nowhere. So how can we come before Him? The Bible says that where two or more are gathered, there He is in the midst of them. And Jesus said that the Eucharist is His body and blood... that He is present there.

So how do we deal with all of these levels of presence? How can God be everywhere, but also be the person of Jesus in a human body? In the Eucharist? In heaven, where we can "come before Him confidently"?

Well, there are several answers to this, and all of them are just little glimpses of a deeper reality. The first answer is that it is a mystery. That means it is something very true, but so big that our brains can't grasp it. It's too big for us to fully understand. It is "above our ways" and "above our thoughts", as His ways and thoughts are said to be.

But there is another true answer: He is everywhere, and in the Eucharist, and in His body, and in Heaven ... all at the same time. Because He is outside of time and space. He is the ground of our being. He is constantly in the process of creating us and our lives. So it's really a harder question to figure out where He is NOT, than where He is.

He's everywhere, and He's present in the body and blood, and He's in the person of Jesus, and He's in heaven... and each of those are true, and mean something slightly different. He IS everywhere, but we can't consume His body and blood everywhere, like we can in the Eucharist. He IS everywhere, but we can't listen to His words being spoken out loud for us to learn from and be changed deep down to our core, like we can when we meet the person Jesus. He IS everywhere, but He is in heaven where we can "come before Him with confidence" in a way that's different from His presence here on earth.

So in His heavenly presence, we know that we can come before Him without fear... .because He loves us. In the person of Jesus, we have been reconciled to Him, and so we can approach the scary God of Mount Sinai without worrying about being struck down in our sins (like the Hebrews were afraid of). We can approach Him, even in our sinfulness, and He will help us to lose our sins and to know Him better. Thank goodness, because I could never approach Him if I couldn't do it in my sinfulness.

God, thank You for being everywhere, but being in some places in more ways than others.