I may seem like some kind of seeker, but I’m not. The truth is, who knows why we do the things we do? I can remember from my earliest childhood being called to certain images. When I was four years old, I was fascinated by a statue that stood high atop a building in the city of San Pedro. Whenever my mom or dad went there on business and brought me with them, I made the drive by that statue so I could see it. I had no idea whom the statue represented. I only knew I loved it. I would not find out until only ten years ago that it was a statue of the Virgin Mary.
I can’t really explain why I have always been so interested in philosophy and religion. I don’t know why I have felt drawn to study the holy books of the world’s religions. I have not felt anything missing from my life. I never felt particularly lost or lonely. I mean, I have, but not in any way more lost and lonely than anybody else. I’m just a regular sort of guy in most ways. I have developed a strong belief in God over the past forty years or so, but not because I felt any need to believe in God. And my rational mind wants to balk at a great deal of the things that I believe. My rational mind tells me that I should not believe those things, but my experience tells me to believe. I know it doesn’t seem to make sense, but I think I can honestly say that I have not ever been so much in search of God, as God as been in search of me.
I once told this story before, but I will repeat it here. When my children were very young, they attended Catholic school. And so I was required to take them to mass every week, because there is a long waiting list of people who want their kids to attend Catholic school. So if you want your kids to go to Catholic school, you must jump through a lot of hoops to keep them there. Because of this, although I felt no great need to attend church on Sundays, I found myself going anyway. I didn’t particularly care if they attended Catholic school, but my ex-wife did, so there I was.
While we were there, waiting for mass to begin, I began to pray, because that’s what you do before mass. So I was kneeling there in the pew with two little boys, one six, the other four. I had been spending a lot of time those days reading books on Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and even some New Age stuff like the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ. I didn’t really know what I was looking for. I didn’t know what I expected to find. But I felt sure the truth was out there somewhere. I remember making this one simple prayer.
I whispered something like, “Father, I know that I’m looking in a lot of places. And I know I’m swinging out there far from the center.” I had this image of myself, much like a planet, swinging around the sun, swinging further and further away from the source of light, of life, of warmth.. I looked up at the image of Christ on the cross and continued, “Please, no matter how far I go…please, don’t ever let go. Keep me where you are.” And I don’t even know exactly why I made that prayer, but every part of me meant it.
Just as I finished whispering those words, a kindly looking woman came up to me, and said, “Excuse me, but would you and your boys like to offer the gifts today?” Offering the gifts means to bring the bread and wine up to the altar at the appropriate time during the Mass. Now maybe that concurrence of events means nothing at all. Maybe it was a totally random happening, but I don’t think so. That’s not the way it feels. I believe that was an answer to my prayer that day. You see, you don’t have to go out looking for God. We are a lot like lost children. Just stay in one place. God will come looking for you. Check out what happened to the young prophet Samuel (before he knew he was a prophet).
Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.”
“I did not call you, “ Eli said. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, “ he said. “You called me.” But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”
At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
Somebody calls your name, you look up. You can’t help it. And maybe that’s why some of us are looking, not because we’re trying to find something, but because something is trying to find us. We hear something calling our names. Sometimes we think we know what it is. Sometimes we think it’s money, or power, or thrills, or knowledge. And then we look, and we find that stuff, and then we find out. That wasn’t it. We know because even after we get money, or power, or whatever, we still hear something calling us. The gospel of John tells us this story:
John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.
Jesus puts it perfectly, “What are you looking for?” Well, we don’t know what the hell we’re looking for. We just know someone or something is calling us. We feel that pull, deep in our heart’s core. We know it’s out there somewhere. So we look for things. And we follow people. Peter wasn’t out there following John the Baptist, at least not that we know of for sure. Andrew was the one following John. Andrew was the one following Jesus. But when Andrew brought Peter to meet Jesus, Jesus called him out. And Peter would follow him the rest of his life.
So how do we find that something that’s calling us? As the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” If you’re still reading this, then you know that you’re being called out. You hear the call. How do you answer? Remember what Eli said. Simply say, “Speak. I’m listening.” You don’t have to look for God. God is looking for you.