Godtalk: Author of All things Good


Sun breaking through the clouds

If you have problems with prayer, read on. The God we imagine and then try to meet in prayer is generally thought of as pretty lifeless, dull, flat, colourless, genderless, sexless and lacking in humour, creativity and understanding. We feel that our friends and our distractions are more interesting and life giving than God. We would rather spend time with our friends and our amusements and interests than with God, rather take our chances with them than with God. That is understandable, given that we rarely imagine God as the source of all that is, including the wonders, pleasures and joys we experience in our friendships, achievements and distractions. The problem is that we fail to see our companions, creativity and compensations against an infinite horizon. All good things come from God, and God is in them as their ultimate source. Rarely do we think of that in any meaningful way.

Human grace, beauty, humour and understanding seem to help us in a way that God doesn't. A powerful film energises us more than a liturgy; a good TV programme relaxes us more at the end of the day than does prayer; and the understanding and smile of a friend is more consoling than any item of the Creed. Time spent in prayer seems like time spent in duty, time taken away from what really interests us and gives life meaning. No wonder we find prayer difficult.

This is unfortunate. All the things that we draw meaning and life from as above can help show us the face of God since God is their ultimate author. All that is good in them is not only also found in God; but is found there infinitely. If you think a friend is wonderful and understanding, how much more so is God? If you think some film star or athlete is graceful and beautiful, how much more so is God? If you think some comedian is funny, how much more humorous is God? If you think some trait of personality or nature is wondrously haunting, how much more so is God?

We restlessly pursue what is beautiful, interesting, creative, funny and haunting without realising that all of this, multiplied infinitely, is inside of the God to whom we pay attention only reluctantly and out of duty.

We are less interested in this God and prefer to stimulate ourselves through music, art, cinema, entertainment, conversations and the like because we do not see God as containing these, as being their author.

So the God we pray to seems grey and dull. Yet God can be for us, as Jesus and the mystics suggest, the ultimate friend, lover, artist, companion, distraction, the most haunting, interesting and sought-after of all persons. But for this to happen we must let God be God, the author of all that is characterful, compassionate, creative, erotic, beautiful, athletic, humorous and life-giving – taken to an infinite degree.

Peter Knott SJ