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‘God’ is just a word! What does it actually mean? That’s the interesting question.
The important answer to that question is YOUR answer. To paraphrase St John Henry Newman, just because you say you believe in God doesn’t mean that it is God you believe in (or not believe in for that matter).
One thing is certain: if you think that you understand God, it is not God you understand. We are dealing with the impenetrable mystery of being itself.
Even in the Christian experience there remains the deepest paradox; we believe that God has revealed himself but ever remains in deepest mystery and hiddeness.
Perhaps the first words that Jesus preached may give us a way of holding this tension constructively. ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.’
No doubt, the invitation to repent will for many conjure up ideas of being sorry for what we have done wrong and amending our ways. This does not seem to do full justice to the original Greek.
The impact of the original is not so much to change your behaviour, but rather to change completely your way of thinking. Yes, drop your image of God for the sake of coming to experience God as God is. (Meister Eckhart.)
Many of us cling to the God of our childhood or a distant God, whose love and kindness has to be earned by good behaviour; a God who observes our every movement with a critical mind and an arbitrary will.
How our mindset would change if, instead of asking how I can find or love God, we were to ask: ‘How can I let God find and love me?’ The answer is challengingly simply: open up to him. That means coming to know and accept yourself.
Stop the game-playing and in peace and silence be real. Deep within you, you will hear a still small voice whisper: ‘I have found you, I know you, you are my beloved child.’
You have experienced the unfathomable God who is love.
Father James MacNeil, St Columba’s Cathedral, Oban.