16 October 2008 Thursday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Ephesians 1, 1-10 The Knowledge of God
Except for the first two verses, the first reading (v. 3-10) is a Jewish-Christian benediction. A benediction is an invocation to the Divine, usually seeking Divine help, blessing and guidance. It comes from the Latin, bene (good) and dicere (to speak): thus to speak well of the Divine. The poetic material in the letter to the Ephesians emphasizes God’s action in Jesus and speaks of the role of the Holy Spirit. God is blessed because He has decided to bless us “with every spiritual blessing under the heavens.” The benediction tells us that God is the source of all wisdom and understanding, and He has initiated to reveal Himself and His plan to us. So that, having known His plan, we can share in the fulfillment of that plan.
Let me explain. How do we know our friends? There is a time element. Friendships often begin as acquaintances. We meet them at a gathering. We have common friends. We get to know them because we belong to the same social circle or network. Many of our social networks like Friendster, Multiply and Facebook operate like this. We add and accept friends who ‘discover’ us from another person’s list of contacts. We are therefore introduced.
God is also introduced to us by our parents, friends and acquaintances. Notice that our “image of God” is the same image as those who introduced them to you. My students whose family are active Catholics regard God differently as those whose family are merely nominal. I find it sometimes amusing that those people who take God for granted come from a religious environment, and those who are curious about God are those who come from schools without religious education.
But real friendship, usually, the personal face-to-face friendship, begins when someone dares to reveal some aspect or personal experience of theirs. Revelation is done incrementally. In small dosages. Tingi-tingi. You choose what part of you to reveal.
God also is revealed to us in small dosages. We get to know Him through stories taken from the Bible. I still remember the Bible stories with colorful pictures. We get to know Him through the stories of different people. Like getting to know our children through the stories of their friends. The person is revealed to us when someone else other than us tell us of their experiences of them. And stories vary: for those in the office, they will tell us about their work ethic, for their childhood friends, they will tell us of their adolescence. The same way in the Bible: we get to know God through His friends who experienced Him. And we get a different picture. That is why there are many titles of God. Each title is an experience.
When we pray and meditate on passages in the Scripture, we are getting to know God little by little, incrementally, and in small dosages. Hopefully, we will be able to somehow get a comprehensive picture, but not a complete picture. Like people we love: we say that a person is a universe in itself. There is always something new about them as we spend more time with them. This is how relationships get exciting: we do not give and reveal everything all in one sweep, like a one-time-big-time event.
As our friendship deepens through time, the content of our sharing becomes more personal and intimate. It reaches a point when we share the very core and essence of ourselves. This is the time when we share our deepest desires and our darkest secrets. We say, “I’ve never shared this to anyone before.” This time, we are not just sharing the safe experiences which we post in the internet. This time, the sharing cannot be posted and broadcasted; because it is shared in trust and confidentiality. It is the sharing of the person himself or herself. The ultimate revelation of a person is not therefore virtually, like those in our internet social networks (some we have not seen for a long time, some we never saw). The ultimate revelation is the very presence and experience of the person himself.
This is Jesus to us. If in the Old Testament, we hear about Him through stories from other people, when Jesus came into the world, we hear about Him directly. As they say, “from the horse’s mouth.” God has revealed Himself totally to us — because Jesus is God Himself. That is why, if we would like to know God’s plan, we go to Jesus. If we would like to know who God is, then be with Jesus.
We therefore can ask the question: How well do you know God? Are you stuck in your childhood knowledge of God — or have you advanced?