Our Misconceptions of God
I have noticed recently in life that all people have such unique and different views of the world. It is extremely difficult for me to communicate the way I see and understand the world to others and it is even more difficult to understand and see the world through others’ eyes. To help with this communication problem, we have come up with labels to assign to people with certain personality traits or beliefs so that we can reach communion and unity in this chaotic world. While these labels are not inherently bad and actually helpful at times, it can be easy to reduce other people to the labels we give to them. We often completely identify people with their jobs, their mistakes, their dispositions, their beliefs, their sins, etc., but we cannot be limited or contained in these labels. This is the same with God, who is infinitely more mysterious and beyond understanding. But, in his gracious mercy, God revealed Himself fully to us in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and especially in Jesus Christ who is the image of the invisible God (cf. 1 Colossians 1:15). But, in this Revelation, God was revealed to us in a way that did not make any sense. It was quite scandalous when God became man because people had labeled God as completely transcendent and other. It was impossible for God to become a human being! How could an immortal Being become mortal? How does the Creator become His Creation?? Because of this, the Pharisees persecuted Jesus since His very person contradicted what they knew about God. He could not possibly be God because it was literally impossible for the Divine to become human! How could anyone be so foolish to believe or preach that God would become a human being?!
Now, it is indeed true that God is completely other and transcendent, that He is immortal, and that He is uncreated, so the Pharisees did have labels that truly communicated God to humanity. But, Jesus Christ, being both fully God and fully man, brought humanity into contact and unity with the God who is infinitely greater than any created thing. He “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8). Jesus Christ bridged the gap between the Divine and the human, but we would have none of it. The Romans and the Pharisees beat Him, unjustly condemned Him, ridiculed Him, made Him carry the instrument of His death, and nailed Him to that cross bereft of all His clothes. Now one could say through Jesus Christ that God was beaten, condemned, tortured, nailed to a cross, and died! All these things seem improper of God, but in the person of Jesus Christ, God took on all the aspects of humanity uniting it to His own life. Our conception of God was widened and we saw God’s Love on full display in His sacrifice on the Cross.
When God reveals Himself to us in the world, in human beings, or in ourselves, it can be tempting to reject Him and put Him back within the labels we have set aside for Him like the Pharisees did. We can see a homeless man asking for money on the side of the street and easily reduce him to a bum, an addict, or a sinner, but Christ dwells within Him. We can reduce that one coworker to their annoying habits and miss the face of Christ smiling out at us. We can even see God within ourselves attempting to heal past wounds or call us to a different way of life, and it can be easy to reject His call because it doesn’t fit the way in which we expected to hear from God. It is like having the right destination set down for a trip but thinking that there is only one way to get to that destination. Road closures, detours, and obstacles often abound in the journeys of our lives challenging us to change the way we travel in order to reach the destination. And if we do not grow beyond our own conceptions of God, we could miss the joyful life that He is inviting us to.
God’s fullness and glory cannot be contained within our intellect, and He is constantly inviting us to understand who He is in a deeper and deeper way. This is the way of our God - a God full of surprises who can never be controlled by our own conceptions of Him nor by our plans for our lives. As St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). This is to say, even the wisest people in our world cannot even begin to understand the foolishness of God because it surpasses any wisdom we could muster with our human intellect. As we enter into further relationship with God and come to a deeper understanding of who He is, may we have the openness to receive God as He is and not to expect Him to be as He ought to be. May we have the grace to be okay with taking one step at a time as the Lord slowly reveals to us Himself and His plan for our life. Amen.
Here's the 2nd Reading from Last Sunday which inspired this reflection - Philippians 2:6-11
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This 11th Day of April - Holy Monday - Year of Our Lord 2022