In the midst of the chaos and shocking news of today’s world, I stopped for a brief moment to immerse myself in the sights and sounds of a ‘holy night.’ While the experience was quite different that I had anticipated, it was beautiful nonetheless and provided a much needed respite for my heart which has been deeply troubled due to the awful news of more school shootings and a new corona virus variant.
I realize that what we are facing today is not that different from what folks faced two-thousand, one-thousand and even five-hundred years ago. In every age and season, there has been strife, chaos and evil. Our response to this reality is what truly matters. God has always been present to his people – in the good and bad times. But do we call on him or try to go it alone? History has shown us that those who sought and followed the will of God had a much greater chance of navigating the storms of life with clarity, peace and success rather than those who did not. This doesn’t mean that life won’t deal us some difficult cards. It just means that we will have the grace to walk through the hard times with faith and trust if we keep our eyes on God.
Sometimes we might feel invisible when life is tough and things just don’t seem to be going as we had planned. But last night’s event reminded me that God always sees us! In the book of Genesis, a slave named Hagar was met by God at her lowest point in life. God met her in her pain and assured her that she was not alone. God encouraged her to trust in Him. So with this newfound confidence, Hagar returned to her life and bore a son named Ishmael. She gave God the name “El Roi“, which in Hebrew means, the God who sees me.
Do you believe that God sees you? Sometimes people can’t believe it because they don’t see or hear God clearly in the midst of their own busy lives and outward evidence seems to indicate that He is not there. But He is always there – behind the scenes, giving comfort, love and guidance to each one of us. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. knew this to be true – even at the height of the horrendous race riots in twentieth century America. In his famous Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool sermon to congregants at a Chicago Baptist church on August 27, 1967 he said, “Don’t be a fool. Recognize your dependence on God. As the days become dark and the nights become dreary, realize that there is a God who rules above.”
Catholic biblical history reminds us that God is always present to his people. A recent Catholic Answers article shared the following, “God did not stop giving his word to individuals. Moreover, he did not stop inspiring Scripture then (during the time of Malachi to Matthew) any more than he did in other lulls. The view that corresponds to Scripture is the Catholic understanding of a God who gives revelation to man in all periods-even today, century after century.” While I appreciate this formal assurance, as a child I grew up *knowing* that God was always there for me by the way my mom prayed with me and my siblings. Mom had a way of bringing God into every season and situation of our lives. When life was tough, she taught us how to reach out to him in our pain. When life was good, she reminded us to thank him for our blessings. I most appreciate the many prayers, novenas and other Catholic traditions that she taught us. These precious treasures reside deep within my soul where I refer to them often. They formed the basis of my faith and led me on a journey to seek God in all things. Of course not all folks have the gift of a Mom like Joan Mary, thus it is up to each one of us to share our faith generously, with love.
God does indeed see each one of us. As evidence of his incredible love for us, God actually did something so outrageous that it is hard to comprehend. He became one of us. And this didn’t happen in a grand and glorious way, rather, it came about in the most humble of circumstances. His father Joseph probably had to clear the animal droppings from the stable ground so he could make a “clean bed” for his mother Mary to rest on after riding for days on an uncomfortable, dirty donkey. His parents were unwelcome immigrants in a strange land with no one to help them find shelter or prepare for a new baby. His first place to rest was a filthy manger which was used to feed barn animals. Can you imagine it? He did all of this for you and me because he sees us. He sees us in our poverty, in our loneliness and in our brokenness because he has willingly been there and experienced it himself.
There is so much to pray for in this modern world – school shootings and a global pandemic. But the good news is that we are not alone. As Dr. King said, “there is a God who rules above.” And he is working things out behind the scenes through people like you, me, my beloved heavenly mom and the late Dr. King. He invites us to engage the world with all the gifts that we’ve been blessed with in order to bring about goodness, change and light for those most in need. And like Hagar found out, He sees us. Give All Glory to God!