Finding God’s Holy Presence … Everywhere

nature, water, fall, holy presence

nature, water, fall, holy presence

 

Hourly every weekday and frequently during weekends, I stop everything I’m doing for a few minutes of intercessory prayer. I have a constantly open invitation to friends, family, acquaintances, my Facebook community and, well, pretty much the whole world to pray for anyone’s particular needs. So I have a long list of folks for whom I pray.

For a long time, I opened those moments with words such as, “My God, please accept me into your Holy Presence.” I thought it would be cool to lift up the people on my list while surrounded by all God’s angels and saints – with God looking on.

Then, while praying with Psalm 139, these words grabbed my attention in a new way:

Where can I go from your spirit?

From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;

if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

According to www.catholic.com, Sheol is the Jewish word for where everyone goes at death, and that it has a “good sector and bad sector,” Professor Scott Hahn says. “Purgatory is the good sector, where once purgation of those souls bound for heaven occurs, they are set free. The bad sector of (Sheol), those souls don’t get a chance. They are eventually bound for Gahenna,” or Hell.

Thus, God is present in Heaven, but also in Purgatory. To my mind, that implies that the only place where God can’t be found would be hell. Wherever we may flee, there God is present.

I realized I don’t need to ask God to accept me into his Holy Presence. Wherever I am, whatever I do, He already is there. That led me to change my prayer-opening words to something like, “Dear Lord, thank you for allowing me to be with you during this last hour. Now, please give me an even greater awareness of your Holy Presence constantly during this next hour and hear my heartfelt prayers offered in that Presence.”

During a recent offering to my St. Louis community of Secular Carmelites, Father Christopher Seiler shared some thoughts on the “threefold presence of God.” I will reflect on each of those three in time, but for now I’d like to focus on what David professed in Psalm 139 and other Psalms: Wherever we may go, He will be there.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that God’s omnipresence means “on the one hand that God is necessarily present everywhere in space as the immanent cause and sustainer of creatures, and on the other hand that He transcends the limitations of actual and possible space, and cannot be circumscribed or measured or divided by any spatial relations. … He is the cause and ground of all reality. According to our finite manner of thinking we conceive this presence of God in things spatial as being primarily a presence of power and operation. … God Himself, or the Divine nature, is in immediate contact with, or immanent in, every creature — conserving it in being and enabling it to act.”

God isn’t present merely in all places. He is present everywhere, yes, but also in everything and every action. As a priest told me once, “If something exists, then God must be thinking about it, otherwise it wouldn’t exist.”

Of course, God’s omnipresence doesn’t mean much to us unless we are aware of Him. Jacob once awakened and realized that “surely God is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16). The Book of Deuteronomy (4:29) says that if we seek God with all our heart and soul, we will find Him. In the Letter of James, chapter 4 verse 8, he advises that if we would draw near to God, then He will draw near to us.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of comprehending God’s Presence everywhere and in everything is that we don’t have to wait until eternal life to realize the joy of heaven, where we will revel in the Beatific Vision of God. Too often, we spend our lives trying to live the right way and believe the right things in order to spend eternity with God in heaven when we neglect the joy we can live on earth.

If I read Jesus’ words correctly, he taught us how to live in the Kingdom of God right here on earth, at any time. I have found that to be true in several ways.

Of course, that involves all the ways we can perceive God’s presence with our senses – some more subtly, some more obviously.

Where there is love, there is God. And although it’s not as easily detected, where there is hatred or sadness, God is there as well. We can read in Genesis 1:26 that every human being possesses the image of God. And Jesus says, in the Gospel of Luke, that the kingdom of God is within each of us. He always is available. Where there is justice and mercy, where there are people who are mourning or celebrating, where there is suffering or striving, there is God. Where there is work to be done or rest to be enjoyed, where there is peace or turmoil, where there is silence or chaos, where there are tears or laughter, there is God.

We often notice that God’s Presence overwhelms us in a beautiful sunrise or stunning sunset. But He’s there when the sky looks ho-hum. He’s there in the intense heat of a summer day or the painful cold of a deep winter chill, in the chirping of birds or roaring of lions, in the scent of a rose or foul odor of a swamp. Where there are acts of great generosity and where there is unspeakable hatred, where there are signs of vast wealth or abject poverty, He’s there.

He is ever-present in cities, with honking car horns and looming skyscrapers, bustling sidewalks and blowing pieces of trash in the streets. He can be found as well in small towns and in the wide-open spaces, on every highway and dirt road that connects them all. Every continent, among every peoples of every race, color, religion – whether they believe in a Higher Power or not – and even if there isn’t a soul to be found for hundreds of miles–He is there.

“Everywhere I go, I see you,” sang the late Rich Mullins. Unfortunately, He gave us only two eyes with which to see it all, only two ears to hear it all, only one heart to love them all, only one mind to perceive it all.

We spend so much of our days hoping to live in a way worthy of being with God when all we need do is be with Him. At any moment, if we simply turn toward Him, we will find He has been there the whole time, watching us and waiting for us, ready to listen and tell, to hold and comfort, to reveal and awe. God is there most powerfully in our suffering, when we are at wit’s end and have exhausted all other options. “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.” (Psalm 46:1)

And in those moments when we turn our eyes, our ears, our hearts toward Him and don’t detect His Holy Presence, still He is there. Indeed, He is present as well in the gift of faith.

“O my God, since thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech thee to grant me the grace to continue in thy presence; and to this end do thou prosper me with thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.”

Brother Lawrence

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15 thoughts on “Finding God’s Holy Presence … Everywhere”

  1. Yes, I am looking for god’s presence in DA’ESH; and you know I can’t find him there. Yes. I am looking for god’s presence in the genocide of the Canaanites, and I can’t see it. Yes, I am looking for god’s presence in the Shoah, and I fail to see it. Either he/she was momentarily absent or allowed children to suffer and die. I doubt that any good person would stand by and watch pure, innocent children experience intractable suffering and death and not intervene?

    1. Phil you are looking in the wrong place. You will not find the presence of God in your head, but in your heart. Why waste time on a false premise, when there is so much Peace and Joy available to you – just for the asking.

    2. The article was about finding god everywhere and I am saying that he(The Source) in within us….I am also say that there are places he is not…because the presence of The Source (God) is incompatible and contradictory with the arbitrary suffering and death of children. I look with my heart at the needless suffering and death of children and find absence,,,,and asking does not mitigate the absence.

    3. God is everywhere – even in the suffering and death of little children. There is purpose in everything and everyone, but the answer can only be found in love. We have to fall in Love and Trust with God to find the answer.
      Crossing that street can seem daunting, since we want to stay in charge – we want to play froggy for ourselves. Let go and climb upon his back and let him do the jumping – you will arrive safely on the other side. May the Grace of God be with you.

    4. “God is in the suffering and death of little children.” You cannot prove this statement; nor can I disprove it. The suffering of children is not good. I know that because I work with this population daily. Not good is contradictory and incompatible with the notion of a all-good God. It’s called the problem of theodicy. There is no sin in protesting God when he allows this to happen. Your statement which I quoted is asserted without proof and can dismissed without proof.

    5. God created you and I, indeed all of creation, what we know and what we do not know – through Love. God IS Love. Since God created us then each one of us is perfect in his eyes – 100% perfect for his purpose. It is the World and Man that is the cause of suffering and death. Death is now transient, for Jesus Christ conquered death and gives us eternal life. How are we brought into the sight of God? – it is not a mathematical equation or an eloquent speech – it is through Love.
      Do you need more proof?

    6. You cannot prove your assertion which are Biblical and in many instances interpolated. I cannot disprove what you assert. And so, that is the basis for a diversity of beliefs. I have my truth, you have your truth. The one common point we have is that Love is Matt 25; that we can agree on as common ground.

    7. To say that I have my truth and you have yours is to make one’s human finite mind the measure of infinite Reality or God, which is absurd. The meaning of the suffering of innocent children is hidden in God who is infinite Love and we can only understand it in the measure of our closeness to Him by Faith, Hope and Love. In actual fact, the Christian believer sees the answer to the problem of seemingly undeserved suffering in the Paschal Mystery, the life, passion, death and resurrection of his Lord and Savior.

      The article is well written and my only quibble is that while the author keeps affirming that God is everywhere, he seems to exclude Him from Hell where He is by His Justice.

    8. I find it absurd to say that “the suffering of innocent children is hidden in God who is infinite Love and we can only understand it in the measure of our closeness to him by Faith….” It is absurd and contradictory. If the essence of God is love, love would never allow a child to suffer intractable pain and to die, or to live in a totally contorted body for years. You see this is the problem which people have grappled with for years…theodicy. The presence of evil and suffering in a world created by a loving, omnipotent and omnipresent god. For a God to allow suffering of innocent children would be a contradiction in his nature. To attribute this to mystery, defies logic and the rational mind which god created….theodicy must be understood not attributed to mystery, explained not made to be not understandable. You take a real problem and mystify its explanation. God cannot have contradiction in his nature….maybe he isn’t, maybe he chooses not to be involved with his creation, maybe he is not omnipotent, maybe …..What you assert without proof can be dismissed without proof. You cannot explain a Love which allows a Shoah, a Daesh, crippled children without choice or consciousness by attributing these to a mystery. If something is True, it is internally and externally without contradiction. It is or it is not. Faith explains nothing but it gives an excuse to people not to probe the essence of God.

    9. What I said was “the meaning of suffering…”, not suffering in itself. The statement can only sound absurd to someone who thinks his mind is the measure for understanding all of reality, or things as they are. Well, as Hamlet would say, “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt up in your philosophy.” It is really absurd to think that anything that our puny intellect cannot understand is absurd. The meaning of everything that is mysterious to our limited minds is in God who is all-knowing.

    10. “Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.” Christopher Hitchens

    11. By defining faith that way, as a surrender of reason, it becomes an unmitigated evil in your mind and as a being endowed with reason you are forced to reject it outright. I would too if I understood faith that way just as I would reject an atheist’s understanding of a god who exists only in his mind. As it is, I am and will forever be grateful for having been given the totally gratuitous and undeserved gift of faith from an infinitely loving God who is indeed Love Himself.

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