“He is not far from us”

Fr. Joe West celebrates the Eucharist, pre-pandemic, with his parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Clarksville, IN

By Friar Joe West OFM Conv.
Parish Priest at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Clarksville , IN

We are in an era of anxiety and worry, with a virus and violence, societal unrest and racial upheaval with no legal, political or bureaucratic solutions in sight. We need God. We need a savior. Where is he?

Joseph Ratzinger wrote in 1970, after having been asked what the church of the year 2000 will look like, responded, “And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that She was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”1

Out of recent humiliations will come the grace of God with a saving power like we have never seen before. Where will we find this grace?
St. Paul says to the Athenians in the Acts of the Apostles, “He made from one the whole human race… so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.” (17:26 & 27). Paul had an experience of God, through his Son Jesus Christ, that was so “up-close and personal”, so overpowering, that it knocked him to the ground.

As a parish priest for 28 years, I see the presence of God in his faithful people when we gather together for worship at Mass, the other sacraments, and in service. When Christians understand their Church, but no particular building, to be their home, then the faith, and it’s hope, is truly theirs, they own it. Now it cannot be easily taken away by any outside force. This is so beautiful to see. They don’t ‘attend’ Mass, they come back home and their service to others overflows as the most natural result.
Jesus Christ, the compassion of God, is the answer to any significant question we may raise. In Him we place our hope and he will not disappoint.

1 Faith and the Future 2009 Ignatius Press.