The atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say to God if indeed He did exist. He answered, “I would ask Him, ‘Sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?’”
In some ways, Mr Russell’s question is accurate. We do not see God directly. He is hidden from our view.
On the other hand, God has revealed Himself to us in nature. When we look at the vast universe and the harmonious order with which the planets orbit the sun, we can see that a superior intelligence is behind it. When we look at ourselves, at our ability to be conscious of ourselves and our ability to judge between good and evil, we realize that, as human beings, we are made in the image and likeness of this God.
Not only has God revealed Himself through the world He created, He has also revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Through Him we learn that this All-Powerful God is not distant from us. He knows us and loves us. In fact, He loved us so much that He became one of us, sharing our weakness and vulnerabilities. In Jesus, we discover a God who is not only All-Powerful but all loving. And in Him, we discover our fullest potential as human beings by loving Him in return and our neighbor as ourselves.
Both through nature and through Jesus Christ, we find enough evidence to believe that God exists, that He is good and that He loves us.
Nonetheless, there are many who still choose not to see the evidence and to not believe. There are some who will only trust what they can observe and measure. If they cannot see, hear or touch it, they will not believe it exists or believe it is worth troubling themselves with. There are some who live for their own comfort, chasing every pleasure that is available to them. They are not willing to give up these pursuits for a God they cannot see. Sadly, there are some who have experienced much suffering through the death of loved ones, disease and mental illness. They ask why a good God could allow so much pain. Finally, many do not believe because they see us who profess faith in God not living up to our calling as His sons and daughters.
We have been blessed with the vision of faith to see God active in the world and in our lives. We know Him personally through His word and experience His transforming power in the sacraments. We have welcomed Jesus into our lives and His light has illumined the darkness of our hearts. We know where we are going because Jesus lights the way before us.
It is up to us, then, to bring this light to others. As Saint Paul tells us in today’s second reading, “Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” When we love our neighbor, forgive those who wrong us, pray for others, feed the hungry and care for the needy, the light of Christ that is within us through baptism and faith shines forth. That light then opens the eyes of the people we meet. They see Christ shining within us and are able to see clearly His presence among us. They in turn welcome Him into their hearts and begin to shine with His love. Before long, even more eyes are opened, what was hidden becomes visible and lives are forever changed.
It is important for us to be able to explain to others why it is reasonable for them to believe that God exists and that He loves them. However, no argument will ever fully persuade anyone to give his or her heart to Jesus. Even those who heard Jesus’ speak and witnessed His miracles often refused to believe as is the case with the Pharisees in today’s gospel. What will really convince others is the goodness they see in us. When the fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident in our lives - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - they will know that something is at work in us and they will want it for themselves. That is our opportunity to share with them that the difference in us is not someTHING but someBODY - Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
Jesus warns us in the Sermon on the Mount that, before we try to take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye, we must take the plank out of our own. Therefore, it is important for us who profess faith in Jesus to make sure that the eyes of our soul are healthy and that we are seeing clearly. It is easy for us to fall into the trap of the Pharisees, thinking we know God’s will but failing to see His plan unfolding before our eyes. That is why we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. He is the One who lights the path ahead of us. He is the One who can heal our vision so that we will continue to see clearly. We do that through daily prayer, Scripture reading, going to confession as often as necessary and participating in Mass.
Gathered in this sacred space today, we will see Jesus Himself. He will reveal Himself to us hidden in bread and wine. We will receive Him, our eyes will be open to His presence among us and the torch of faith will be ignited in our hearts. Then we will be sent from here to bring that light of faith to the dark areas of our world - to our homes, our schools, our neighborhoods, our places of work - all blinded by doubt, fear, anxiety and shame. We go there in the confidence that Jesus makes a difference and that His light has the power to illuminate and warm every human heart.