‘I don’t need to go to church … I find God in nature’. I have heard this reasoning too many times to count. And it makes me want to say to my nature-touting, tree-loving, God-is-in-the-ocean-and-birds-and-gentle-breeze boasting friends, ‘you are SO right!’ God is there! You can find God in nature because, well… He created it. So you will certainly find His thumbprint on every fern-covered Redwood hike, every wave crashing on the beach, and every gloriously serene mountaintop view. God is in the myriad of angelic bird species. God is in the infiniteness of the vast, calm, and frightening ocean. God is in the fresh crisp air that can only be breathed in deeply from atop a mountain. God is also in other places; we only have to look and be open to finding the enveloping beauty of His face there, too.
God is under bridges and highway overpasses in the dirt-covered, destitute homeless person who has lost their family, house, and dignity. He is waiting to be greeted with a friendly face, or at the very least not be ignored any longer. The Lord Himself tells us that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). God is in the face of the poor… those poor in resources, as well as those poor in spirit.
God is in the magnificence of the many cathedrals and basilicas that pepper this earth. He is encased in the towering walls of stunning indigo and cardinal hued stained glass of the Saint-Chapelle in Paris. He is housed under Michelangelo’s spectacularly immense dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. And He can be found in the 28 intricate carvings of the Kings of Judah and Israel built into the gothic walls of the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Madonna-blue and gold mosaic of the Risen Christ above the altar of the Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre. God is in the beauty of the many magnificent churches built to honor Him.
He is spurring the work of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and all orders of religious men and women who have committed their entire lives to serving others through God. He is in the words of Pope Francis when the Holy Father speaks about the dignity of all human life … dignity of the homeless, the unborn, the imprisoned, and the aging. He is in the hands of the saints and martyrs who devoted their lives to do His work through a myriad of charitable and generous works. God is in the goodness of the people who tirelessly and joyfully do His Will.
God is in the depths of Sacred Scripture … He is in the captivating parables of Jesus in the New Testament and the historical drama of the Old Testament. God is in the enchanting prose, imagery, and wisdom of the Proverbs, which drips from the Holy Bible like the sweetest poetry. He makes it easy to ‘listen to his Word’, as He commands, when he endears us with such sayings as these: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24), “an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” (Proverbs 24:26), “anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up” (Proverbs 12:25). God is in the stories and lessons that He teaches us through His Word.
God is in the routine dealings of household affairs and family matters. He is in the gentleness of your voice when you respond patiently to your child, the love in your heart when you take on extra tasks to provide your spouse much needed respite, and the tenderness that results from forgiveness of wrong-doings and insults. He is even in the bleakness of chores like cleaning, laundry, and dishes, for when done with a heart of service, can be a beautiful form of sacrificial prayer. He is in the pleasure you take in your family and your home, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). God is in our homes and families when we allow them to reflect the simplicity and profundity of his unconditional love for us.
God is in the logic and wisdom of some of the greatest thinkers of our time. He is in their myriad of proclamations of His truth and goodness. Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us, “to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” Dante warns us, “Heaven wheels above you, displaying to you her eternal glories, and still your eyes are on the ground.” Plato teaches that “we ought to fly away from earth to Heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like Him is to become holy, just, and wise”. Constantine the Great proclaims, “I cannot, then, my brother, believe that I err in acknowledging this one God, the author and parent of all things; whom any of my predecessors in power, led astray by the madness of error, have ventured to deny.” God is in the wise lessons of some of history’s greatest thinkers and leaders.
Finally, God is in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, central to the Holy Mass, which we celebrate worldwide as the universal Catholic Church every Sunday. He is consumed – body, blood, soul, and divinity – by the faithful in Catholic Churches in America, Uganda, Thailand, Sweden, Latvia, Brazil and nearly every country in between. Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). God is in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, central to the Holy Mass.
God is in nature; He’s in the cool crisp mountain air and the mirror-like reflection of the lake in the stillness of early morning. He is in the salty sting of the ocean mist that lingers on your skin and lips while you bask in His glory at the coast. He is in every mountain climb, every lake swim, and every trail run. God is also in the Eucharist, the Scriptures, and the glorious cathedrals, basilicas, and churches all over the world. He is in the faces of those we love, and those we prefer to ignore. He is in the goodness and wisdom of great doers like Mother Teresa, and great thinkers like Thomas Aquinas. He is in your home, and in the hearts of your loved ones and He is waiting to be honored and glorified in ALL of His creation, not just His creation that we commonly call ‘nature’. In the words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, “it is certainly a higher virtue of the soul, and a greater grace, to be able to enjoy the Lord in different times and different places than in only one.”