MISSION MATTERS: Finding Who…Where? Seriously?
By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry
More than a tag-line or a warmth-inducing aphorism, finding God in all things, if we take it as Ignatius seems to have intended it, is a serious and potentially disturbing challenge to all who prefer comfort zones to reality. To parse the phrase, we can ask Who is God in my life? What are the all things... in which I'm supposed to seek and find God?
All things, in this context, have to be all people--whether I prefer them or not; and all places--slums and gated communities alike; and all political persuasions, whether they're my particular preference, or flavor, or not. As you can tell, all things has no nuance--it means all things. Regardless, then, of my particular all things in my life, I have to do something more to satisfy the call to find God in all things. I have to do something about it rather than just talk about it, or put it on any number of pretty, but eventually forgettable, banners, brochures and bookmarks.
Are our all things in the middle of our familiar crowd or group, or, more necessarily, are our all things at the margins of our group? Jesus, Ignatius and any number of holy men and women of faith and good will, from all traditions, know exactly where we need to seek and find God. They also knew and know that the process is active, not passive; it won't just happen unless we commit to it. And at some level, we also know that God is already present in all things, so we're not so much seeking and finding as seeing and recognizing God. Do we see and recognize God in a difficult lesson learned, or someone who disappointed or comforted us, or in un-God-like situations or people or places? Yes. What are your all things?
If we don't often, or even occasionally, find ourselves in some degree of tension and dialogue, maybe even disagreement, with ourselves and others, internally or externally, we're not really seeking--and just may not find--God in many things, or any things, let alone in all things. This is supposed to be a challenge, pulling us into the gritty reality of real life.
Faith, if we're serious about it, is a bold, broadening enterprise, really, if we do it right, calling, challenging and stretching us, whether we want it or not. More often than not, though, during or after the process, we savor the stretch, take a deep breath and consider the process eventually comforting, and often energizing, if we do it right.
The real practice and integration of my faith means I have to stand for something, to live something, more and more each day, bold and beyond myself. And that's Who and what I seek and pray to find...in all things, in all places, in all aspects of life, mine and others.
Before anything else, and more often than not, and now, more than ever, we need to revisit our taglines, to see if they still breathe, to take them less for granted, to make them more for God, to humanize our words, to give them flesh, flavor and focus.
Finding God in all things means something. If we're all made in the image and likeness of God, we're all made in the image and likeness of God...right? Who and what are your all things? Who and what are your challenges to finding God in your all things? How can we get beyond those challenges, and into what we're really supposed to be doing?