The Word Among Us

July/August 2018 Issue

A Word That Lifts Us Up

How does God speak to us?

A Word That Lifts Us Up: How does God speak to us?

On March 23, 1857, the E. V. Haughwout and Company department store in New York City opened the first commercial elevator in the world.

Through the pioneering work of Elisha Otis, this new mode of transportation was able to carry customers up and down between the store’s five floors, moving at the breathtaking speed of forty feet per minute. With the success of the Otis elevator, a new era in construction opened, and in less than fifteen years, more than 2,000 elevators were in operation. Soon enough, skyscrapers began to spring up, altering the entire landscape of every major city. You could say, in fact, that Elisha Otis and his invention changed the face of the earth!

Thanks to the elevator, people no longer had to trudge up countless steps to reach their destination. Workers no longer had to risk their lives moving bulky inventory to the upper floor of a factory. Productivity rose, safety increased, and innovation took a major leap forward. It was a simple recipe for success: you didn’t have to work half as hard to reach your destination.

This is a marvelous way to look at God’s gift of revelation. On the one hand, you could spend all your energy trying to understand God and his plan of salvation—and trying to follow his commands. But that would be like climbing endless flights of stairs. On the other hand, you could get in the elevator and push the UP button.

So where can we turn to find this revelation? Where is that UP button? In this article, we want to look at three of the most important ways that God’s elevator works: through creation, in the Scriptures, and in the Tradition of the Church.

The Voice of Creation. Creation is a marvel, isn’t it? It’s also a revelation from God. Everything around us and within us has the potential to put us in touch with the One who created it: the beauty of flowers, the majesty of the heavens, the fluid movements of our bodies, and the amazing capacity of our minds.

Just think for a moment about what science has revealed about our DNA. Every single cell in our bodies carries a DNA molecule. This molecule contains the unique genetic code for who you are: your height, your hair color, your eye color, your physiological strengths and weaknesses, even much of the “wiring” in your brain. Consisting of two strands that wrap tightly around each other, each DNA molecule would be about two meters long if unwrapped, and if you were to string all of your DNA molecules together, they would stretch to more than twice the diameter of the solar system. All of that is inside of you! All of that genetic information is intimately known and planned for by God.

Just contemplating the wonder of our DNA could be enough to fill us with awe over how deeply God knows us and how intimately connected to our lives he is. You could be just as easily moved by contemplating the vastness of the universe: more than 100 billion planets orbiting billions and billions of stars—and that’s just our galaxy! Astronomers estimate that there are between 100 and 200 billion galaxies in our universe. Such vastness speaks volumes to how grand and majestic our God is.

From the intimacy of our DNA to the grandeur of the galaxies, God is always speaking to us though his creation. He is always telling us how powerful and magnificent he is. He is also always telling us that he loves us, that he knows us, and that he has us in the palm of his hand.

Try to make it a habit every night to stare up at the sky. Gaze on those magnificent stars. When you are taking a walk, look at the massive trees, the colorful flowers, and the bright sun that keeps everything growing. Contemplate the serenity and power of the mighty oceans and the rushing rivers. Isn’t God’s creation amazing? Our great and awesome God has allowed us to see a marvelous show of his glory . . . all to draw us closer to himself.

A Living Word. In addition to the “wordless” revelation of this created world, we also have the precious words of Sacred Scripture. The Scriptures tell us about God. They tell who God is and how much he loves us. They tell us that God has a loving plan for his Church. They tell us that our God, who is mighty and powerful, is also patient, rich in mercy, and quick to forgive.

In addition to describing God’s wonderful attributes, the Scriptures also give us many stories that reveal his heart of love and mercy. There’s his rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. There’s his reaching out to his people and drawing them back to him through prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel. There’s Jesus, always encouraging his disciples and always forgiving people like Zacchaeus the tax collector and healing people like the woman suffering from hemorrhages. And, of course, there’s the story about Jesus’ own death and resurrection.

These stories, and countless others, tell us that God is completely committed to caring for us and walking with us all the way to our heavenly home. Each of them has the power to speak to us personally about our own needs and concerns and hopes and fears.

There is a famous story about the great St. Augustine. A highly educated man who placed all his confidence on what he could learn, he struggled with the idea of a loving God who could speak to him personally. He also struggled with the call to live in purity. Then one day, he heard a child’s voice, saying, “Take up and read.” No one was around, and Augustine thought it might be a message from God. So he opened the Bible and came upon a verse from Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness. . . . But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (13:13, 14). That very moment, Augustine’s heart was pierced, his life was changed, and he gave his life to the Lord.

As he did with Augustine, God wants to speak to us through Scripture. It may not always be as dramatic as the story of Augustine’s conversion, but you can be sure that God wants to take the stories and the teachings from Scripture and open them up to you. He wants to speak to you as you sit with him and try to read and pray through his word.

A Living Tradition. In addition to creation and Scripture, God also reveals himself through the Sacred Tradition of our Church. “Sacred Tradition” refers to the way the apostles preserved Jesus’ teachings and passed them on to future generations. When combined with the written words of Scripture, Tradition gives us a fuller picture of who God is, how he wants to pour his blessings on us, and the life of holiness and peace that he calls us to live.

Think about how your parents and grandparents imparted their wisdom to you: through stories from their lives, maybe, or through the ways they celebrated birthdays and holidays. They may have had traditions about how they chose to name their children that revealed something about them. Even practices as ordinary as bedtime rituals and TV viewing habits can say a lot about them.

Each of these traditions tells you what it means to be a member of your family. Each tradition expresses your family’s beliefs, convictions, and philosophies. And because they come from your family, they have a lot to tell you about who you are and the life you are living.

On a broader scale, our celebration of the Mass is a perfect example of the way the Church has been living out the Scriptures over time. Our liturgy has its roots in the Old Testament stories of the Passover and in Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. In a sense, when we celebrate Mass, we are joining a long line of saints and believers, going all the way back to Moses, in an unbroken chain of faith and worship. The language of the Mass may have changed, and various parts may have come and gone, but the essence of every Eucharistic celebration has always remained faithful to the Scriptures. And that makes this greatest of traditions another way that God can give us his revelation.

A Generous God. Look at all the ways God reveals himself. Look at how much he wants to speak to your heart and become a part of your life. You don’t have to feel as if you’re climbing an endless set of stairs to try to reach him. He has already come to meet you, and through the power of his revelation, he is always ready to lift you up into his presence.

What a generous God we have!