May 15, 2012 - Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Acts 16:22-34
Psalm 138:1-3, 7-8
John 16:5-11

We know that our relationship with God is found in prayer and in contemplating his creation, but it would be nice if it were more tangible, like in our readings today: the relationship that the apostles had with Jesus sitting at table with him; the relationship that Paul and Silas had with God so that when they were in prison an earthquake came and opened the doors; the relationship that Jesus is talking about with the Holy Spirit whom he will send, who will be our advocate.

We must not get a false idea though. Paul and Silas were beaten and wounded and locked up before God came to the rescue. The apostles were close to Jesus, but they had to suffer through his leaving them, even those who ran away suffered fear and doubt. Mary herself, who had a relationship with God that we could never fathom, suffered greatly because of her son.

Even in Eden man's relationship with God was distant. It is written that God would visit Adam each evening, but he was alone all day. God said to that it was not good that man should be alone so he created woman, Eve, to be with Adam. Still the question remains: why did God not just spend more time with Adam? It is not as if he is busy. If God had been visibly present next to Eve, would it have been possible for her to reach out and take the wrong fruit?

We do not have daily visits from God every evening anymore. And we do not get to follow Jesus wherever he goes anymore. And our relationship with the Holy Spirit is not one of constantly felt encouragement. We know and sympathize with the cry of Jesus from the cross “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Not only in distress, but pretty much every moment of every day we feel the fact that God is not present to us as we wish he would be.

Some versions of Christianity attract people with the promise that God will be present in their lives if only they would sing a certain way or pray like this but the feeling never lasts. That is what heaven is: the perfect and constant sense of God's presence, and we cannot have heaven here on earth. Here on earth we are left reaching, stretching, grasping, for something out of reach. That is fine. The thing is to keep reaching, to keep stretching forward. Never fill that desire with the lesser things of earth in such a way as to forget that it is really a desire for heaven, a desire for God.