One of the readings this past week was about St Paul in Athens regarding an altar on which was inscribed, “To an Unknown God”. I was raised steep in Catholic traditions. I know well the God of my doctrines. I regard myself a good person. I have been good by simply avoiding doing bad things. The God I know is the One I worship at Sunday Mass, a weekly obligation I have faithfully fulfilled. Can you describe me to be worshipping “an Unknown God”?
Probably not. I know of creation, I know about the death and resurrection of Christ, and I firmly believe in eternal life. But in this contentment with my faith life, I have limited myself and missed to know so much more about God. Just worshipping at Sunday mass had not been enough. For starters, I asked myself, “Who is the Advocate?” As a cradle Catholic, I don’t know about you, I struggled to describe the Holy Spirit. Not knowing the Advocate, not welcoming the Holy Spirit into my daily life, put me back in front of the altar on which was inscribed, “To an Unknown God”.
God really want us to know much more about Him, especially about his unconditional love and mercy. Love is not a dead theory but a living experience. God will remain unknown if we cannot feel and experience His love in the here and now of our daily life. When Christ ascended, the Advocate became the next norm of our faith life. God desires us to have this living experience of Him. For us to feel loved, God needs a personal relationship with you and me. And the Advocate was sent to be this connectivity.
When faith is handed down through family tradition, we are at Sunday Mass because of our parents. The Holy Spirit work hard to open our eyes of faith and soften the hardness of our heart. God is very active in the many events of our personal life. He will never stop. But until we are convinced, we will never be able to claim a personal ownership of our faith and establish this personal relationship with Him. We must look for evidence of the Advocate in our life.
The Holy Spirit is always present in the shadows of events happening to us. He shows himself in different shades, just so to be relevant and personal. In desperate situations, he is the unexplained hope we cling to. In a turbulence, he is the quiet inner peace we tiredly withdraw into. In the search for assurance, he is the touch of affirmation sometimes so powerful that leave us in uncontrolled tears.
He is also our inner voice of conscience and our compass in our search for meaning to life. He is the path that sometimes take us back into our past only because he knows we need to be healed. He is the fixer of life, putting events together, then disguising them as coincidences. He is the link that joined event milestones, drawing us a map of how God had intervened in our life story. He is the spirit of truth, and so much more.
Pope Francis recently repeated that Christianity is above all about relationships; our relationship with God and one another. The greatest commandment, “Love God, Love Others” can only be accomplished through honest relationships. All of humanity is interconnected and we are interdependent on one another. The Holy Spirit help us to apply this teaching into our daily life and allows us to be empowered by it.
This week is also the 5th anniversary of “Laudato Si”, our Pope’s encyclical “On the Care for our Common Home”. In this is highlighted the “’intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet’. Protecting the planet requires an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. Global inequality is a central theme: the poorest are the most affected by climate change and ecological chaos, yet they have done the least to cause it.” * The poorest has been most affected by Covid-19.
In this pandemic we have seen how fragile this equation has been. This responsibility is now in each of our hands. If you hear this it is the voice of the Advocate calling us into this interconnectedness and interdependence with one another and be united as one.
Significantly for me, the Church in Thailand today open its doors for public mass, letting us into the next norm. Today’s Gospel passage (7th Sunday of Easter) is the prayer of Jesus before he died that God may be glorified through his deeds. Let us be ready now to enter this new norm with the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, fully conscious that every little deed of ours is significant to make an unknown God known to the world. Let us resolve to be collaborators with the Advocate in this next norm.
“Be present to those in need in these trying times, especially the poorest and those most at risk of being left behind.”
7th Sunday of Easter