Returning to god
A question that is on the minds of many people is how to return to God? How to meet God face to face? A lot of people say that they pray, fast, read the bible, go to church etc. but cannot enjoy God’s presence. Their prayers are dry and boring, fasting is only a habit.
The main reason that hampers our effort to return to God is hypocrisy. It is the most serious obstacle against repentance. St. John Chrysostom says a sick woman who appears pale must go to the doctor for examination to get treatment. Covering her pale face with make-up will do nothing for her recovery. She remains sick.
First you need to rid yourself from hypocrisy and appearance and dive into the depth. It means that you work on the foundation underneath the ground before you emerge as a huge building. You need to adopt God’s ideas and ways and give up human practices and style without the divine grace. This way you can present yourself before God without any distraction from others or any attachments to things but with a mind that purely seeks God alone.
A lady professor who spent 25 years studying the life of St. Anthony the great, and her husband was also a professor who spent 45 years studying the life of St. Cyril the great said that the source for St. Anthony’s strength was that he was biblical. The bible reflected on him the life of joy and happiness. When he heard the bible reading about selling all that you have and being perfect, he did not sit down to calculate and plan his course of action. He told his sister to keep whatever money she needed and to give the rest to the poor. He headed to the desert not worrying about how he would survive etc. His mind was only on the Lord and he left the world totally to be in the hands of God.
These days if we consider establishing a mission in Africa for example, we calculate man power, individual skills, financing, training etc. Instead we should leave everything in the hands of God.
Some may argue that St. Anthony and St. Cyril were from the 4th century but we are in the 21st century and things have changed. In fact nothing has changed except us. I give you the example of the Mother Theresa who went on a mission to help the poor. Her bishop gave her the best of his human advice that as a woman she could not handle the job and to throw herself in the den of poverty, illness and an unfriendly land of strangers. She overcame her sex, illness and poverty and in one city alone she looked after more than 42,000 disadvantaged people. When a journalist offered to promote her cause by TV and media coverage, she refused. She said to him if you wished to help us out of love you are welcome, but I do not need propaganda. Again when she was offered a comfortable residence in San Francisco, the first thing she did was to rid the place of electrical appliances, carpets and other items of luxury. She insisted to live with illness and poverty and share with the disadvantaged. Our biggest mistake is that we try to plan our own salvation and we expect God to execute that program.
God works differently. He devises the plan and the execution through His divine wisdom.
When the prodigal son decided to return to his father, he only relied on his father’s love without preparing answers on how he spent the money or why he left his house in the first place etc. Likewise when St. Augustine repented, he stood before God in total honesty to declare his love for sin was greater than his love for God. He relied totally on the power of God to change his life and God transformed him into a totally new man advocating purity and resenting lust.
David the Prophet says that we see the light through God’s light. Therefore, in repentance we have to focus our eyes on one Master that is Jesus.
Elijah climbed the mountain after he fasted, to hear the voice of God. He thought God would be in the fire but He was not. Again he tried to find God in the thunder and He was not, he heard the voice of God in the quietness that followed. Therefore as long as you are preoccupied with people talking and turbulence around you, the distraction of daily events and worldly glamour, you will not meet with God. In repentance you are fully occupied with God as the Father whose arms are stretched to embrace you.
Daniel gives us an excellent example of a repentant young man who relied on God and not on humans or circumstances. When he was captured and brought to Babylon and placed in the king’s palace, his mind was focused on God. He rejected rich food, palace temptations and the new sinful environment and clung to his Lord alone. This led him to become the second most powerful man in the empire. Yet when they planned to kill him, he prayed to God from his room without being troubled or worried about what the future might hold. To him God was the focus of his life and nothing else mattered. Probably the night that he spent in the lion’s den was the best night of his life. He sat there playing with the hungry lions and in the presence of his Savior God. In contrast, the king spent the same night in his palace in worry and misery alone on his bed. That explains the reason why God sent His angel to Daniel with the message that he is very beloved to God.
Returning to God is very simple because God is simple, no complications or procedures are involved. A child knows how to play with his mother and is fed by her without any previous instructions, guidelines or training. God loves us to cling to Him as the centre of our attention without pretences or formalities.
St. John Chrysostom considered the Church as the icon of heaven and he could see the Cherubim present during prayers. He could see the joy of heaven with every new member being baptized.
To repent you need to seek God directly. He should be the only one and everything in your life. You must understand that God must be clear in your mind and heart and shining in all aspects of your life, your prayer, fasting and readings.