REFLECTION: No experience of God? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 30 September 2011 15:17

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

That’s what Pope Benedict, in effect, told his compatriots in a recent visit to Germany. “We see that in our affluent western world, much is lacking,” he told the Central Committee for German Catholics. “Many people lack experience of God’s goodness.”

That’s indeed a very intriguing statement from no less than the Holy Father himself, whose words just cannot be taken lightly. In his analysis of Western society, he again points as culprit the danger of relativism that cuts people from God and makes them rely only on human consensus.

It’s a mindset that’s becoming a dominant world culture and that practically rejects faith or any reference to God’s revelation to man, the role of the Church, the sacraments and spiritual life, etc. It simply depends on people’s ideas, estimations and consensus.

Relativism pits faith with reason and science. At best, it confines faith to a purely private affair. Thus, our own self-government by way of politics, culture, economics, sociology now edge out divine providence. Civility can cover for any lack of integrity and piety.

Relativism’s worst quality is that it has many good and valid points that can coincide, at least externally, with our faith, but are not inspired nor oriented toward God. That’s why it can spread rapidly in the way sweet poison works.

In short, it’s an imitation—cheap, convenient, practical, popular—that has eclipsed the original. As such, it cannot be condemned outright since it can work and produce good results, at least for a while, and even for a long while.

It cannot stand on its own feet. It’s a parasite that would always need a host to live on. Of the most vicious type, it can easily morph to suit prevailing conditions, making people almost impenetrable to the impulses of faith and grace.

But somehow its falsity cannot be hidden for long. Its inconsistency will show sooner or later, and can inflict a grave backfiring damage on the people.

In that visit to Germany, the Pope said that due to relativism many German families suffer “poverty in human relations and in the religious sphere,” in spite of the prosperity, order and efficiency seen around. There is coldness in people’s dealings, and piety is reduced to pietism.

He is calling for a return to God, extricating ourselves from the grip of relativism that can only give false hopes at best. He is asking us to return to prayer, to sacrifice, to the sacraments, to genuine ascetical struggle, to authentic Christian engagement with the world…

This is an interesting turn of events, since it shows a clash between two attitudes in life that can look similar from the outside but are actually opposed radically to one another in the inside.

It’s about time that we be clearly told about this choice. Are we for the original and real approach, or would we just be contented with the imitation? And if we opt for the original, are we willing to go through the steps needed to put it into practice?

That was practically what the Pope presented to the Germans in that visit. It’s a bold, risky move that can trigger hostile reactions, but the Pope went ahead with it. I reckon that sooner or later, that kind of choice has to be presented to the people in general. Let’s pray that things go well.

This development also highlights the fact that to experience God is not only a possibility, but rather a certainty and a necessity for us. For it happen, we of course need grace, but we also have to do our part.

Experiencing God in our life is not just a purely passive affair, totally dependent on God’s grace. It has to be actively pursued by us, and in fact it would need all that we have got.

We have to learn how to relate ourselves and all our affairs to God, seeing to it that we always set our mind and heart to God even in the midst of our mundane activities. We should avoid excluding God from our affairs and activities.

Many people are still ignorant of this need. They think that some religious practices are enough even if they do not sustain God’s presence in us all day long. This has to be corrected.

For this, we need to develop a working plan of life, consisting of some acts of piety, adapted to our different conditions, to assure us that we are having a living contact with God even as we go through all the items of our day.