Wednesday, March 2, 2011

God's New Way of Speaking and Working in the World

"Come to our aid, O' God of the Universe....Give new signs, and work new wonders." (Sirach 36:1, 5)

These words from The Book of Sirach (an ancient book of Hebrew wisdom literature) call on the God of the Universe to manifest his presence through signs and wonders to a people who are likely between a rock and a hard place. They echo the primordial, incessant need of the human person to know of God's abiding and supportive presence in the midst of the trial, tribulation, and challenges inherent in life. Yet to call on God to "give new signs" and "work new wonders" means attuning one's mind, heart, spirit, and soul to be able to perceive such signs and wonders.

At times it may seem that God no longer speaks as God did in the Bible nor gives signs nor works wonders. Why is it that God worked so impressively in many parts of the Old Testament and in the ministry of Jesus but now is seemingly silent? What has changed in God's communication that requires a corresponding adaptation in the way that we attune our minds and hearts in order to hear what God is saying and in order to "see" the "new signs" and "new wonders" that God is bringing about?

If God can be described as a "person" and, even more, as a "communion of persons" (Father, Son, and Spirit), than this seems to imply the necessity of change when it comes to the way that God relates to us. Karl Rahner, the famous Jesuit theologian from the last century, used to say that, "the giver is himself the gift." What this means is that God doesn't communicate something "about" himself, but has always communicated his "very" self and nothing less. Such a mode of communication requires adaptation on the part of the one communicating (God) and the one receiving the communication (humanity). In other words, God has always spoken words that can be understood by humanity and humanity has progressively become more attuned to God's "speech." Over the course of time, God has spoken more deeply about God's self to humanity. This speech reached it's fullness in the person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In the Christ event God perfectly melded the "speaker" and the "hearer" of God's word. Rahner also had a saying that, "humans are the event of God's self-communication." What this means is that humanity was always intended to not only receive God's fullest communication, but to become that very communication in Christ (or, to become as God) and Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us, we are called, in a very real and dynamic sense, to speak God's words, to give new signs, and to work new wonders. Far from being silent, God now speaks in, through, and with us when we aspire to live as Christ and allow the Spirit to take firm hold of our minds, hearts, spirits, souls, relationships, communities, and even, the entire world. Pat, TOR