21st Sunday of the Year (A) 2017

All religions seem to demand/require/suggest a certain approach to God.

All religions try and figure out what God is like and from their conclusions tell us what God wants from us – how God wants us to treat Him. This approach colours our liturgical practices and official prayer life.

This is why different religions honour God and pray to God in many differing ways.

For example St. Patrick’s Missionary Society decided at the beginning to follow the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola (St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, invented/instituted this approach).

This approach to God suited some but not many.

The problem I find with all of the above is its presumption that, irrespective of who I am, it requires me to approach and treat God in a certain way. I can see the value of this approach as a starter, but having started (after a number of years) I should allow the Spirit of God to lead me in my relationship with My God.

God is a Person. Religion is a relationship with this Person. Like all personal relationships it must grow, develop, change, mature.

Adhering closely to a certain form or practise of religion in our relationship with God can for some be good and very helpful depending on the character, makeup and needs of that person. For many it can impede ones personal relationship with ones God. One can lock oneself into a stylised and rigid form of worship which treats God as an object of worship. This can be far removed from a personal, warm, grateful, appreciative relationship with ones God.

For example take a learned Biography of Nelson Mandela written by someone who has read all that is written about him and interviewed people who knew him but has never actually met or spoke with him, and contrast with the personal understanding and memories of someone who knew him well, spoke regularly with him, was imprisoned with him for years.

In the former you know about the person (second hand knowledge) in the latter you actually know the person and have a personal relationship with him.

That is why some of our church leaders are obsessed with form, correct doctrine, unchanging formulas and closely regulated liturgy. For them God is an object to be worshipped with the correct words and actions but they have not met God personally. They know much about God but do not know God as a person. That is the big difference between Pope Francis and those who oppose him.

This highlights what I have mentioned to you over the years; the ongoing tension within our Church (and within all religions) between Law and Prophesy. Between going by the book and risking change. Between staying in the boat and stepping out onto the water.

God loves all his children unconditionally whether they stay safely in the boat or trust in God and venture out onto the waves. But if I want to really know my God I must hold his hand and to reach him I must walk on the water.

So the question for me personally is: “But what about you. Who do you say I am.”