Where is God?
On one Sunday, people saw a stranger sitting back for a long time after the Mass. They did not remember seeing him at church before. He sat there, staring at one of the stain glass windows. Then the custodian of the church came and excused himself to close the doors. Upon leaving the church, the stranger asked the custodian: “Where is God?”
The custodian was caught by surprise, replying: “What do you mean?”
“I mean: where is God?” The stranger repeated the question.
“God is everywhere. Particularly, you are in the church where we have the tabernacle. And we believe that the Lord is present here.” The custodian answered. However, the stranger was not asking about the presence of the Lord in the tabernacle. He was struggling with other issues.
“But why do you ask such a question, my friend?” said the custodian.
The name of the stranger is Yumi. He did not go to church often anymore after high school, fifteen years ago. As time went by, his knowledge of the faith was also losing out and was not updated. When the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, happened, he was angry at God and stopped going to church completely. He blamed God for the death of his cousin in the collapse of the Twin Towers. The anger grew in his heart, not only toward God but also toward people.
Hearing the custodian ask about the reason why he had such a question, he replied: “Tell me why evil things happen in this world. Why even those who believe in God do evil things to others?”
“Yes, my friend. It is true. Some believers also do harms to others,” replied the custodian.
“But why do they believe in God and still do that?” asked the stranger.
At that time, the wife of the custodian arrived at the door of the church. She had been outside waiting for her husband to go home. The custodian said to Yumi:
“I’m sorry I have to go now. Perhaps we will meet again and share more.”
“I hope so, but it’s ok. Have a good evening.”
“Thank you. You, too. Ah, here is our church bulletin. You can take with you.”
That evening Yumi heard more news on the fighting in the Middle East. More people were killed and injured. He shook his head in sadness and anger, but overall, confusion and helplessness.
“Enough,” he shouted when watching the news, “Why are you doing all these terrible things to one another?”
He turned off the Tivi as if he could not take it anymore. At that time he saw the bulletin on the table. For some reason, he just picked it up and glanced his eyes across the front page. His eyes caught a question written in bold: “Why is the Lord not in the strong wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the gentle whisper?” Below this question was a reading taken from the first book of Kings, chapter 19, telling the story about the prophet Elijah who was running away from the persecution of Queen Jezebel. Elijah found a cave and hid himself there. A messenger of God came and told him to go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord who was about to pass by. Elijah heard a heavy wind that crushed rocks, then an earthquake, then a fire, but the Lord was not in them. Finally came a tiny whispering sound. The Lord was in it. This detail made Yumi stop and think. He remembered hearing this reading several times when he was younger, but he never paid attention to this detail. It seemed that he just discovered something new this time.
The cell phone in his jacket rang. The number was not familiar to him. But he decided to answer it anyway. The voice from the other end of the line sounded angry:
“Listen, from now on, don’t let me see your face again, or I’ll beat you up. I swear to God. Is it clear?”
Yumi was shocked by the strange voice. He said in reply:
“Excuse me sir. Who are you? I think you are talking to a wrong person.”
The voice at the other end stopped. He heard him say “Oops” and hung up the phone without saying sorry.
At this moment, Yumi suddenly understood the reading in the church bulletin he had just read. The answer to the question in bold was simple: The Lord was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire but in the gentle whisper because He is not a violent God. He can do everything because He is the Almighty, but He always chooses the way of gentleness and peace because He is the God of love (1Jn 4:8). The phone call from the wrong person who showed his aggressive attitude and who even used the name of God for his violence helped Yumi understand violent behaviors among people. The root of this kind of behaviors lies in their misunderstanding of God. When people do not understand that God is absolutely against violence, they fail to reject the evil of violence. The worst case would be the belief that God agrees with violence because in that case people will do harms to others using the name of God. The worst thing is to think that God will reward their violent actions.
With this discovery, Yumi turned on the Tivi again to watch the world news. Another scene of houses being burned down by some fanatics was on the screen. It was obvious to Yumi that what was happening pointed out so clearly the fact that those people understood God wrongly.
It was 11:15 at night. His cell phone rang again. Another unfamiliar number! He was hesitant to answer. A few minutes later, this number called him again. Though still reluctant, Yumi decided to answer it.
“Hi Yumi, it’s Minsa. Still awake?”
“Yep. This is your new number? What’s up?”
“Yep, new number. I just heard that our friend Stipud has got drunk so often lately.”
“Why?” asked Yumi.
“He said he wanted to punish himself for insulting his girl friend in front of a group of people,” replied Minsa.
Yumi realized right away that when people fail to see God as always non-violent, they allow themselves to be violent, not only to others but also to themselves. Any form of violence would be contrary to the will of the true God. Behind violence is Satan. Satan always looks for ways to tempt people to be involved in violence, both in thought and action, both old and young, both healthy and sick. He takes advantage of every situation to tempt people to be violent with themselves and others.
“Minsa, you see, in this situation Stipud is double violent, first against his girlfriend and now against himself. He could simply apologize and move on. I will give him a call tomorrow to see how I can help him. Thanks for letting me know Minsa!”
Today, Yumi does not get angry with God anymore. On the contrary, he loves Him more. At times he mumbles: “Oh poor God!” He has discovered an approach for himself and wants to share with those who have similar struggles like his, namely, instead of asking “where is God?”, one should answer personally, seriously and correctly a deeper question “who is God?” Yumi glued the church bulletin he got from the custodian the other day to the wall and drew a green arrow pointing upward. The reason is very simple: Elijah realizes the true God in his gentleness. But the best manifestation of this characteristic of God is seen in the crucified Jesus on the cross above the bulletin. Being the truest image of God, Jesus resists the temptation of being violent in all its forms and at all costs. Whoever follows Him must also resist this temptation at all costs and in all its forms.
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.