October 17, 2008

The Joyful Catholic / Rick Hermann

The mystery behind the special place where God lives

Rick HermannLast week, my 4-year-old nephew began peppering his mother with questions about God.

“Is God married?” he asked. “Is God invisible? Does God give everyone candy?”

His mother answered all his questions to the best of her ability.

The mystery behind his curiosity was solved on Sunday as she rode with him on her bicycle to church. As they passed the rectory, he pointed and declared, “That’s where God lives.”

After Mass, she related this funny story to our parish priest, who chuckled as she informed him that he had been promoted.

When we are children, most of us assume grown-ups are godlike because they appear powerful and super-sized to a pint-sized kid.

Priests appear especially godlike to children. In a way, this is right because priests have answered a call from God to consecrate themselves, to set themselves apart in order to “be Christ” to his people on Earth.

Priests are ordained to celebrate the sacraments “in persona Christi,” a Latin phrase meaning “in the person of Christ.”

In other words, Christ acts through the priest in the sacraments. This is a God-given gift originally bestowed by Jesus on his disciples.

In a similar way, all married men are called to be priests to their wives.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25).

Thus, when a husband loves his wife, she may say of him, “God lives there.”

Nuns are also called to let Christ occupy and guide their lives. In a special way, nuns are spiritual brides of Christ and mothers of God, representing him to the world and making all things new.

In reality, all people are called to be priestly and Christ-like. As St. Peter said, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Pt 2:9).

Everyone is created to receive God’s royal love and to let him dwell in us. It is our choice whether or not we accept this love.

From the moment of our conception, God provides us with the spark of his divine essence and inspires us with his holy breath of life. Surely our Creator smiles at us and thinks, “That’s where I live.”

Then Jesus invites us to receive God in an especially intimate and mysterious way: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth … you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:15).

Thus we are living, breathing temples of the Holy Spirit and share the life of the Trinity.

We even receive Christ physically into our bodies whenever we receive the Eucharist. So when we see people returning from Communion, we may say, “God lives there.”

As we grow in faith, we realize that God inhabits all of us and clothes us with new life. We come to understand God indwells his entire creation, except where there is sin.

Sadly, we may kill God’s life within us with selfish thoughts, words and deeds.

Happily, when we obey his will in love, Christ promises to live in each one of us: “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (Jn 14:20).

This is a marvelous miracle to contemplate and behold: God lives in me, and I live in God.

Let us become so filled with the love of God that we may say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

May we strive to live in loving obedience to God so that everyone who meets us may say with delight, “That’s where God lives.”

(Rick Hermann of St. Louis is a Catholic author and career coach. His e-mail address is RH222@sbcglobal.net.)

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