In public discussion concerning religion we may sometimes be directed to ask ourselves as to why there are many religions. Some may be led to think by the plurality of religions that all of them are equal and the same, for as long as they all lead to God. Concerning this I would always succinctly point out that the search to the answer to this question would eventually lead us to man himself. Despite of the many times in the history of mankind that man himself has tried to destroy or take away religion from his life, nevertheless he could never run away from the fact that deep within he remains a religious being, deeply conscious of the fact that he is not sufficient unto himself, that he would have to realize and confess that he could never be able to ascribe the reason of his own existence to himself or to his own desire to exist and to live. That man is religious by nature would explain why he has tried for as long as he has walked in history to search the divine, to search the other-wordly, to look for God. This search for God has lead him through many paths, some bringing him into a relationship with Him, others not so. Religion is basically this movement springing from the depths of the human heart to the encounter with God.
This imperative to seek God is what we hear in the first reading that we have for today. In the book of the prophet Isaiah Israel is told to seek the Lord where he may be found, to call on him while he is near. It is clear in the faith of the People of God that He whom they call their God and savior cannot be found in caves or in springs; nor does he live in temples or in dwellings made by men: the Lord is the Holy One, totally different from the world he had created and by whose loving providence he sustains. The Lord is to be sought by drawing nearer to Him with repentant hearts, hearts that are converted from wrongdoing and purified by God’s mercy. This is further expressed in the Scripture when we hear expressed in varied ways that only the pure of heart are those who are capable of seeing God. Despite of the fact that he is totally the Other, he is never distant to those who search for Him with outstretched arms and a contrite heart, as the Responsorial Psalm would express: The Lord is near to those who call upon him!
However, the good news does not only consist in the tangible reality that our hearts are capable of encountering God, as St. Augustine would suggest, in whom our heart would find the rest that it seeks, but above all in the fact that God Himself has gone out in search for us. The fact of a God who goes out in search for man to enter into a living relationship with him is found from the very first episode in the Bible up to its last page, from the time that he calls out to man very soon after the fall “Adam, where are you?”(Gen. 3:9), up until in the fullness of time Christ in glory calls out “Behold, I come quickly!” (Rev. 22:12). This thirst for the encounter is expressed in a vivid way in the parable of a landowner who goes out in search of people whom he eventually sends to labor in his fields. In the Old Testament the vineyard is an image of the People of God; the Lord seeks us out in order to enter into a covenant with us. This encounter between God and Man reaches its fullness in the person of Jesus Christ, True God and true Man. In him we are able to embrace the God who has sought us out, and in whose loving embrace our hearts are able to find their rest.
Embracing the God who seeks us out through the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ brings us back to the message of the first reading, which is all about personal conversion, turning away from our sinful ways and going back to a life in God: this is the challenge that we encounter in the letter of Paul to the Philippians. For Paul the fullness of the Christian life is found in a life that is transformed in Christ, one that is open to his grace, in which the struggle against sin and death is supported by the loving mercy of the Crucified, allowing one to cry out: “for me life is Christ!”
Inspired by the life and aided by the intercession of Mary our Mother, full of grace, let our struggle to be Christified by Christ’s grace and mercy lead us to be always be aware of God’s embrace that comes to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.