CEBU

Carvajal: Encountering God

Break Point

The religious like to tell us that Covid-19 is a reminder from God that we have forgotten Him and need to bring Him back into our life. Facebook, Messenger, etc. overflow with posts or messages to that effect.

The most noticeable feature of these posts or messages is that by forgetfulness of God what is meant is we lack trust in Him and do not pray to Him anymore. Thus the posts usually come with, I must admit, beautiful ready-made prayers of trust and confidence in the power of the Almighty to get us through all the trials He sends us.

Not so noticeable is the underlying reality that these posts circulate only among the comfortable middle class and the rich upper class who are suffering more than their usual share of physical inconvenience because of Covid-19. These are telling one another via expensive gadgets and connectivity to pray and trust that God will normalize their situation soon enough.

But what about the 30 million poor Filipinos, the most vulnerable sector in Covid-19’s path? What kind of encouraging messages do starving farmers, under-employed, unemployed, and underpaid ordinary workers send to one another? I’d say none because gadgets and connectivity are still a middle and upper class convenience.

More on point, what are the comfortable middle class and the rich upper class posting for their poor workers and subordinates and for their poor neighbors? I don’t think they are telling the latter to bring God back into their lives through prayer. But if like the bishops they do, they are completely off the mark as the bishops are.

The last I looked God is love, the binding element of all reality, the source of life and healing of all physically, mentally, and spiritually challenged life. It is, therefore, not prayer that brings God back into our life but love and compassion for a suffering neighbor. In short, to get God we have to give Him to others.

Prayer belongs to the quantitative way of feeling God’s presence in us. It answers the question: “How many and which rituals (prayers?), laws, and dogma do you accept or observe?” It is relatively easy and hence preferred by folks who do not feel up to the discomfort of the genuine way of having God in our life.

That true way is the qualitative method or the way Christ taught us. It is so much harder and answers the question: “Where or with whom do you encounter God?”

The scandal of a proudly Catholic country having the highest number of poor people is due to our preferred way of encountering God through prayer and ritual. It is a one-way street as the suffering poor cannot feel God’s presence with our prayers. What they, and also we, need to feel His presence are concrete acts of love and compassion with them.


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