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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: January 22, 2022
By Father Erik Pohlmeier
Director of Faith Formation, Diaconate Formation
If we want to understand our faith, one question that deserves regular attention is the most basic of all questions — who is God? We should come back to this question regularly for two reasons. First is that we can never answer it completely, but we can discover more every time we ponder it. Second is because our answer will help or hurt in moments of crisis, and we need a mature answer for life’s challenges.
There are many immature answers to this question bouncing around in the world. We find them in the flood of soundbites that often surround us, and if we ignore their influence, we might fail in our witness. Those who dismiss God as no different than a flying spaghetti monster often remain unchallenged because people of faith lack the ability to respond. The god that people reject is often a far cry from reality and not what Catholics believe.
We need to be clear so that we can speak with intelligence and maturity as authentic witnesses of faith. It is common to speak of God as the supreme being, but this term can be misleading. If we mean the wrong thing, we are left with a damaging image of God. Too often, this is the image of a God who is the strongest, wisest, most powerful, most loving, etc. We could apply a long list of superlatives. The problem is that superlatives always make a comparison, and we picture God as just the greatest of all beings.
Love exists because God is the source of love. Any good we experience is an experience of God.
The truth is that God is not just more powerful than all the other superheroes. God is something else entirely. God is not just the strongest. God is strength. God is not just the wisest. God is wisdom itself. God is not only the most loving. Love exists because God is the source of love. Any good we experience is an experience of God. The personal damage of the wrong image comes when we face suffering, tragedy or pain. At this point, our wounded hearts begin to question a God who would allow it.
If God is more powerful and loving than everything, why not do a better job of protecting? This is a hard question because the only correct answer must account for what is beyond our comprehension. And yet, God is not unknowable. God does respond to our needs. God’s most complete answer to these questions is Jesus. Jesus is the infinite, perfect God in a form that shares our struggles. It could be that the only way to end all pain in this world is just to end this world.
What we do know is that Jesus is the human form of the perfect and loving God who nonetheless shares our suffering. He takes up the cross and says, we have crosses to carry too. He leads the way and then transforms suffering into redemption. Death becomes life. Pain is real, but the source of goodness can carry us beyond the pain. Terms for further study about the reality of God are the terms immanence and transcendence. Exploring these may help you come to know God more fully. The best approach to the question of God is humility. Whenever God doesn’t make sense to me, I can be sure my understanding is the problem. Commit to a life of searching, and you will find ever new depths.
Father Erik Pohlmeier is the pastor of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, theological consultant for Arkansas Catholic and the director of faith formation and permanent diaconate formation in the Diocese of Little Rock.