QUESTION: At times I find myself deeply troubled about my faith in God. For example, when I see such bloodshed in our streets day after day, I wonder if God really cares. Why won’t God intervene in our world and makes things right?
ANSWER: The above question has certainly been asked often, but it is always relevant and real. In times of personal or community upheaval, most of us experience feelings that touch the deepest levels of our belief. Thoughts about the way God “operates” in our world are often a part of that experience.
At the heart of any response to the above question (Why doesn’t God intervene?) is the core belief that God did intervene! “God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son …” (John 3:16). That is the intervention, that is the Incarnation.
One way to describe the Catholic faith is to refer to it as “incarnational.” God became involved in our lives in a new way in Christ. The Incarnation, however, is not simply a historical moment that we celebrate at Christmas. The incarnational aspect of our faith sets the tone for the way in which God continues to relate with us throughout our lives. While it is true that Jesus now dwells in glory at “the right hand of the Father,” he nonetheless remains with us in the words of sacred Scripture, the sacraments and the faith community. God dwells in the heart of every believer.
It is completely understandable that in times of extreme personal or community stress one may feel distance or even estrangement from God. But unfortunately this feeling only deepens if one draws into oneself and cuts off all contact with others. This is so because it is from within the community of the church that we encounter God in word and sacrament as well as community. God intervenes through us, every one of us.
God can never be absent from our world, but he is acting in and through the church, its sacraments and its members. Often when we wonder where God is we are looking in the wrong direction. In a sense we are looking up and not around. If one distances oneself from these sources of strength, it can indeed be a painful, lonely and isolated existence.
Having said that, the fact remains that God could act more directly in our world. The history of our relationship with God, however, demonstrates his preference for working through human instruments if possible. It seems that direct divine intervention occurs infrequently.
These are abstract principles, but the reality is concretely expressed in the fact that God has not left us alone. We are able to see God’s presence in the way in which people reach out to touch us in our pain and anxiety. We see God present in the concern that is shown by neighbor and friend.
At times of severe testing, we can abandon our moorings and cast ourselves adrift or we can hold close to those people and things that have served us well in the past. None of them will provide perfect or easy answers, but God will nonetheless be intervening through them.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry