Every so often one comes across people who will tell you sorrowfully that they have lost their faith. My immediate reaction is to inquire when it was lost. Believe me, after many years of being a priest, if I haven’t at times experienced the absence of God, then I would be living in cloud cuckoo land. We do lose track of him and mistakenly think we no longer believe.
Personally I don’t think faith can ever be lost, but God can be hidden from us. We imagine that he has gone away and left us. It’s much more common than most of us would care to admit. Paradoxically the people who have come to me with this problem haven’t abandoned either their prayers or Eucharistic worship. This is always a hopeful sign. Seeming loss of faith is a Christian affliction. I speak from experience.
In his Talks of instruction, Meister Eckhart said –
“Do exactly what you would do if you felt most secure (in faith). I can give you no better advice than to find God where you lost him. As it was when you last had him, so let it be now that he has disappeared and so you will find him again.”
Meister Eckhart was born in 1260 and died in 1328. He was German and a member of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Although he lived so long ago, he has been a constant companion and over the years I have turned to his German Sermons over and over again.
All of us have had peak moments when we have experienced God’s presence. It’s often that which has started us on the Christian journey. In my own life it was a moment in St Paul’s Cathedral when God called me to the priesthood. Nothing was further from my thoughts at the time. It was a hot July day and I was walking back to my digs in Bloomsbury. I happened to go into the Cathedral to cool down. It was the moment that changed by life.
We also need to remember that God is free and there are times when he withdraws his presence and it is for our good. It’s also for our growth. Imagine a parent that never allowed a son or daughter to experience his or her individuality. Instead of bemoaning that we no longer believe we must take a positive step and ask God what he would have us do. It’s a question that St Paul asked God in Acts. “Lord what would you have me to do? We may not receive a direct answer. God doesn’t work in that kind of way. He works more often than not in an oblique way, rather as the setting sun casts a long shadow.
God is absent, dead, or so it seems to us, until round the next bend of the road, we find him again alive. Once again he makes himself known.
“Lord I want to touch the hem of your garment. I know you’re still there and I will go on trusting and loving you