In North America and Europe God can seem so far away for many people. Charles Taylor, a Canadian philosopher, has written quite a lot about this. He explains that a few hundred years ago, belief in God was “axiomatic”, it was something that people simply accepted. Today in Western society this is just not the case. Believing in God does not come automatically. Many people are unsure if God exists, others say there is no God. What accounts for this dramatic change?
Though there are perhaps many reasons, I suggest that one is that we have become blind to the way that God works and acts in our life. In today’s gospel Jesus is warning the inhabitants of the cities in which He has worked His greatest miracles. Even though Jesus has done His amazing works in these places, the people have refused to change their ways and turn to God. In North America and Europe we have an abundance of good things: plentiful food, peace, access to education and a good medical system. Certainly things are not perfect, but we do have so much. Often we can go through our lives ignoring all the good things that we have. Perhaps it is because we tend to focus on the negative. We should stop and ask ourselves: why do we have all this goodness in our lives? I am not asking a scientific question here but a philosophical one. Science, for example, can tell us how we have so much food: good soil, climate, agricultural technology, etc. It is an entirely different question though to ask why we have so many good things. Is it just chance? Are we just lucky that the factors are such in the universe that we happen to have it so good? Or is the answer that there is a God who loves us and is trying to show us this by giving us so many gifts? One answer is not more scientific than the other. Maybe we have become like the cities that Jesus cautions in the gospel. God is working so much and giving us so much but we do not recognize it comes from Him. Perhaps as a society we have become blind to the way God works in and acts in our life.
Being deaf to how God is speaking to us is a real possibility for us who profess a belief in God and are trying to grow close to Him. We too regularly ignore how Jesus is working in our lives, just like the cities in today’s gospel. The problem is that we expect God to work in dramatic and fantastic ways. God can work like this but more than not God speaks to us in simple, daily events: a conversation with a friend, a family dinner, a passage of scripture that happens to strike us or a sunset. We might complain that God is not active in our lives, that we feel unloved by Him or that He is not answering our prayers. We should ask ourselves if we are paying attention. Perhaps God tried to show you His love today through the smile of some stranger on the bus. Maybe God is trying to tell you to be more patient with yourself through the words of a friend with whom you are having a conversation. If you are having doubts about God’s power, perhaps He is trying to demonstrate it to you through some wonder of nature, such as a thunder storm. Since God is always speaking to us through daily events, it is important to develop a discerning heart by 1) being aware of different events that happen to us (not just letting life pass us by) and 2) taking the time to ask, “what is God trying to tell me through this person or event”? God is always speaking to us, but often we are not listening.
Let us not make the same mistake are the cities that Jesus rebukes in today’s gospel by being blind to the works that God is doing in our lives. We should notice them and allow them to lead us closer to Him. A very practical way you can do this is by taking some time at night to review your day to try to find one or two events in which God was active. Perhaps something good happened to you, for example someone said something kind. Or maybe you felt inspired to do a good deed for someone. Whatever it may be, identify it, give thanks to God and ask the question, “what is God telling me through this person/event”? You may be surprised by the answer.