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A Way to Meet God

The world's fast and massive changes are irrepressible that places everyone in a state of endless battles in the arena of a hectic and topsy-turvy market place. People whether rich or poor, young or old, are governed by their economic needs here and now and in the future. Their major interest is starting to be highly directed to what the world offers and can offers anew. And we are one of them. We become "worry and are troubled of many things" [Luke 10:21] that we gradually and eventually miss the better part of our life. We therefore, can't help but experience a value and spiritual crisis amidst the powerful, enormous, and complex wave of life. The rapid change and the influence of the global culture truly affect us as well as the rest of humanity in the world. This reality places us in the situation where God's presence is very subtle, where His seeming absence widens the vaccuum of emptiness that the world creates. The challenge is very great. How can we become Martha who "was busy with all the serving" [Luke 10:40a] and at the same time Mary who "sat down at the Lord's feet to listen to His words" [Luke 10:39]. How can we grow, nurture, and deepen out spiritual life in the midst of our copious and ever-increasing concerns? How can we encounter God in the world so full of activity and vitality?

This article invites you to discover and delve with me the why and how, in the middles of the many challenges and enticement of the world, do and can we encounter God through study.

Nowadays there still exists the mistaken notion of study and what it can do to us. Customarily, it is understood as a stepping stone and passport to future success. It oftentimes is seen as a tedious and arduous work that needs muscular effort and consumes a great deal of energy.1 But I am sure that quite a number of personages would disagree with it (Timothy Radcliffe, Simone Weil, and many others are significant mentioning). I would like to say that study is worth a struggle, an endeavor, sweat and tears. Why? It is because a [life of study] is not only a milieu of new learning and discovery but also where a gradual and idiosyncratic encounter with God can happen. Study is an eventful engagement but it is above all pausing, thinking, dialoging, and contemplating. It is an ongoing activity that opens our eyes to a wider and deeper horizon of reality, knowledge, and the authenticity of life. It is an incessant journey of joy, of sharing, and encounter always new.

Study is a pilgrimage. We are pilgrims and I would like to compare us as to the pilgrims of Emmaus. The two men began their journey wondering and searching for teh truth (the truth about the news of Jesus' resurrection). And when they have finally known the truth, they went back to Jerusalem at the very same day. They did not even stay and rest there for the night. This happens in our study. We wonder, we question, we want to discover and know, thus we seek for the answer. Once we already know the answer, we are still unsatisfied that we never cease our search and go further. Study is a continuous search and we would never come to its finality because every discovery and new learning of truth liberates us to continue the journey, to search for more -- for a bigger and new truth.2 Our study guarantees that there will always be something more that is new and relevant. Nevertheless, in our studying we, our intelligence particularly, are always moved and led by desire3 that we keep questioning, searching and moving unsatisfied of the present finding and desiring for more.

Study is an act of constant dialogue. The two men on their way to Emmaus talked and shared their wonder with each other. They did not keep their questions to themselves but brought it out in the open. This is study. In our pilgrimage, we dialogue not all alone with ourselves but we "enter into a conversation with ones brothers and sisters and with other human beings" not to determine who is the cleverest but to understand and know the truth that liberates.4 Study is a search for truth together and we cannot do it alone. It is therefore important to argue, debate and struggle to understand because it will not only help us find the answers to our questions but will transform us as well. Our dialog and studying together will enlighten us and give us new insights and wider understanding.5 Above all, like the two men on the road to Emmaus, we are bound to meet God because the "Creator is more intimately close to us than being could be, since He is the ever present source of our being"6 and compared to other occupations "studies are nearer to God because of the attention which is their soul."7 The truth that we await and search for comes to us and teaches us. "While they were talking and wondering, Jesus came up and walked with them." [Luke 24:14] Our study is not merely a search for truth but a dialogue with the truth itself. Who would unveil the cover that held our eyes and from whom we will learn from but from the one who says, "learn from me" [Matthew 12:29] and "I am the Truth"? [John 14:6]

At this point I would like to compare what happens to our study to a new pair of eyeglasses (given to us as a gift) in change of the old one and upon wearing it, how amazed we are to see more clearly. Not only that, because of our unceasing journey and determined struggle we develop the faculty of our attention making us persons with certain focus, keen eyes, intense sensitivity, depth, and dedeper spirituality that we are able to receive, grasp and savor the truth.8 "Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him...And they said to each other, "Were not our hearts filled with ardent yearning when he was talking to us on the road and explaining the Scriptures?" [Luke 24:31a, 32] Our dialogue, our studying together becomes a moment of truth that opens wide and clearly our held eyes and "liberate us from the narrow confines of my experience and my prejudices and open up the wide open spaces of a truth which no one can master."9 Radcliffe again says in his letter to the Order, "Study can never be just the training of the mind; it is the transformation of the human heart."10 "They are modes of religious expression." We grow in our spirituality, we understand and appreciate our experience and we deepen the quality of our prayer.11 The development of our intellect and the increase of our knowledge help us to understand matters about God. In the light of faith we recognize and encounter God who is present, active and living in us and around us. "For an adolescent, capable of grasping this truth above all others, studies could have their fullest spiritual effect, quite apart from any particular religious belief."12 It may take time but our faith, our desire, our awareness of being mendicants before God will give us confidence and make us humble to wait upon the truth. Weil says that,"there is a special way of waiting upon truth"13 and we can be sure that God will make himself known to us.

How much joy there is in our hearts at the prospect of encountering God! How much joy the pilgrims of emmaus felt when they recognized Jesus that "they immediately set out and returned to Jerusalem." [Luke 24: 33a] Their stillness and sadness run off them and they become truly alive once again. Radiant, exuberant and overflowing with joy they shared the good news to the Eleven saying, "Yes, it is true, the LOrd is risen! He has appeared to Simon!" [Luke24: 34b] Study then is a moment of joy and sharing. What more an encounter with God can do to us but experience a surge of immense joy that tastes just right to our longing, wondering and busy heart? According to Radcliffe, "To study should be simply part of the joy of being fully alive. The truth is the air that we are made to breathe."14 And the moment we finally receive the truth as a gift we cannot help but share it to others. Renewed, truly alive and replete with extreme desire we shall leave our jar full of our own prejudices, biases, preoccupation and ourselves and ran to the marketplace shouting to the people in great joy "come and see a man who told me everything I did! Could he not be the christ?" [John4: 29]

We shall continue our journey with a new and clearer vision, with joy, with and in the company of our neighbors towards a more far-reaching and transforming encounter with God that would make a prolific human-spiritual growth possible for us in the realm of this progressing and changing world. It is study that would be our surety and vehicle. With God's grace, we will continue our journey confident and wholly convinced that "Academic work is one of those fields containing a pearl so precious that it is worth while to sell all our possessions, keeping nothing for ourselves, in order to be able to acquire it."15

"May Christ live in your hearts through faith;
may you be rooted and founded in love.
All of this so that you may understand with all the believers
the width, the length, the height and the depth-in a word,
that you may know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge,
that you may be filled and reach the fullness of God."
[Ephesians3: 17-19]
Endnote:
1 Simone Weil, "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God," In Waiting for God (NY: G. P. Portman's, 1951), pp. 109-110.
2 Timothy Radcliffe, "The Wellspring of Hope - Study and The Annunciation of the Good News," International Dominican Information No. 337 (January 1996), p. 5.
3 Simone Weil, "Reflections," p. 110.
4 Timothy Radcliffe, p. 10.
5 Ibid., p. 11.
6 Ibid., p. 9.
7 Simone Weil, "Reflections," p. 114.
8 Ibid., pp. 105-107.
9 Timothy Radcliffe, p. 5.
10 Ibid., p. 9.
11. Jacob Neusner, "Foreword," In Invitation to the Talmud. A Teaching Book (London: Paper and Row, 1973), pp. xii-xiii.
12 Simone Weil, "Reflections," pp. 115-116.
13 Ibid., p. 113.
14 Timothy Radcliffe,p. 4.
15 Simone Weil, "Reflections," p. 116.