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How Well Do You Know God?

How Well Do You Know God?

What does it even mean to know God?

Is it a matter of how much we know about God? We need to learn about God but knowing God is not just a matter of the quantity of information we know. To know God involves finding meaning to go with what we know about God.

This past Sunday (8/23/20 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A), we heard Jesus ask his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” In my homily, I began by talking about why Jesus asked this question. He knew people were talking about what He did (miracles) because as the word spread, great crowds came to see him. What He wants to do is to lead them to recognize the significance of the miracles in terms of recognizing who He is.

To know who Jesus truly is leads us into relationship with him. How would you respond to Jesus’ question, “But who do you say that I am?” Would you share in Peter’s response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”? What other words might you use to describe Jesus? Savior? Redeemer? King? Friend? Brother? Or is He your safety net when you fall into sin?

Now, I would like to move from the question, “How well do you know God” to what does it mean to “know”, whether it is God, other people, or things.

To do so I will use definitions as found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary app (Android version). I will offer five definitions and some discussion about them in terms of what it means to know God.

“To be acquainted or familiar with”
“Acquainted” may be as simple as overhearing someone include reference to “god” in a conversation with. “Familiar with” would suggest some notion of who “god” is without necessarily having “faith in God.” God might simply be seen as a being who exists on a different level than us. It might also be a god who created but then walked away.

“To have a practical understanding of
What is the significance of God? Do you see him as creator? Do you see him as a source of “Truth”, what is right and wrong? Do you see God as active in your life? Do you know that God loves you? Knowing God as Christians, a practical understanding would include knowing common prayers, knowing what to do at Mass, and knowing his Commandments.

“To have experience of”
How have you experienced God? What does it mean to “experience God”? Certainly God comes to us in the Sacraments but are we always aware of his presence as we receive the Sacraments? What about experiencing God in ordinary moments of life? It might be a sense of divine peace when we face a difficult situation. Sometimes we recognize something as an experience of God only after the fact. For example, when we realize something turned out better than we could have expected from human involvement. Experiencing God doesn’t mean all our problems go away but we do see our problems in a different way. When we experience God in our sufferings, it puts them in a new light.

“To have understanding of” and “To recognize the nature of”
I put these two together as I seem them both as expressing our moving from simple practical understanding of God, from just knowing our prayers, knowing what to do at Mass, and knowing God’s Commandments to understanding what they mean for us. To recognize the nature of God and have real understanding of who God is takes us to another level. We begin to transcend earthly things to enter into a deeper relationship with God.

For instance, at Mass we kneel at the proper times. Early in our faith lives we are taught when to kneel. Over time it becomes habit and we do it without needing to think about it. However, how often do you think about why we kneel? It is not simply something we do because God says so. We kneel in humility, recognizing God is greater than us. Thus, we kneel before him, surrendering ourselves to him. (I’ll be taking more about the meaning of what we do at Mass in my upcoming three part series Uncovering the Treasures of Mass” with a webinar starting on September 23rd.)

In proclaiming, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter shows that he has begun to move from merely a practical understanding of who Jesus is to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is, to a deeper relationship with him. How does this happen? Jesus provides that answer, “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”

God offers us the same thing. Are you open to it? Do you seek to know God more fully in your life? Do you seek a deeper relationship with him? This is what it really means to know God. It is not simply a matter of knowledge. It is to be in relationship with him.


Fr. Jeff

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