November reflection: God within

By Father Chris Thomas

When I was a university chaplain many years ago, we had a very small prayer group that used to meet in the chapel of our building on a Thursday night at 5pm. After a few months of meetings, we felt it was right to run the ‘Life in the Spirit’ seminars. The posters went up around the campus and we waited. I can still remember the first night. There were about 10 of us that used to meet on a Thursday and we sat and waited for people to turn up.

By the time ten past five came, there were about 50 people there, most of whom had come out of curiosity. There were people of faith and no faith. There was even an atheistic Jew. The discussions on each evening were lively and interesting as together we explored the Gospel message.

When it came to the evening for prayer for the release of the spirit, I really wondered who would turn up. There had been some scepticism the week before. I was really surprised when everybody arrived, and the prayer took place. The week after one girl said to me that she felt as though she had a party going on within her. I met years later and she said to me, ‘The party’s still going on.’

We don’t all have to have that experience, but I wonder how many of us really believe the truth that God lives within us. Yes, God can live in other people but in us? Yet we celebrate Eucharist, we receive the body and blood of the Lord. We read and listen to the Scriptures and somehow we don't quite see that God is within us and often because of that we have no sense of our own worth, our own dignity, the wonder of humanity.

St Bonaventure said that he saw the ‘traces’ or ‘footprints’ of God in all things. He said the whole world was the ‘incarnation’ of the mystery of God, and indeed the very ‘Body of God’. The ‘journey of the mind to God’ was to learn how to see the unity of all being, how to listen for the partially hidden God, and how to honour the footprints that were everywhere once you could see.

I am becoming more and more aware that the Gospel implies an alternative way of living in which we live with eyes and hearts that are open and in which we see the presence of God everywhere. We are invited to live with a sense of wonder and gratitude at the gift of this world and of life itself. It means that we know judging, blaming and separating are enemies of the Kingdom and that justice, love, mercy and compassion are at the core of our being and the antidote that brings life.