The Pull of God

October 25, 2009

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The Archbishop of Westminster is encouraging Christians to experience the “lure of God,” and is offering tips on setting aside distractions in order to cultivate a prayerful relationship with him.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols told a childhood story to the crowd gathered in London’s Westminster Cathedral Hall Thursday evening, of a time when he and his brothers went mackerel fishing on a holiday in the south of Ireland.”We rowed out into the bay,” he said. “In fact we went too far and had some difficult moments on our return journey.”We threw the lines into the sea, the prelate recalled, and “at the end of each line, on each of the many hooks, was a spinner — a rotating, highly colored piece of metal with sharp hooks attached.””
The mackerel could not resist the flash of light reflecting off the spinners and, once we hit a shoal, they were quickly caught,” he said, adding that they “soon had enough for a healthy supper for everyone in the hotel.”
The archbishop used this image to illustrate the topic of his talk, “The Lure of God,” as he spoke about “the ways in which God can reel us in, if we are able to let him.”He encouraged his listeners to feel “the pull of God,” sense the desire for God and turn “all of that into action.”The purpose of our spiritual lives, Archbishop Nichols affirmed, can be expressed in this way, “What I seek is that Christ is born in me, day by day, so that he can do his work through me.”
He explained: “We can come to know God and know that God wants to enter and fill us. God is a reality whom we can know. This is the first step of our quest.”In order to do this, the prelate said, it is important to focus on God’s transcendence.He continued: “We have to concentrate on the otherness of God. We have to do so in order to free ourselves of a most fundamental error: that of idolatry. “God is not of any of the finite things of creation. The otherness of God lies in the fact that we cannot identify, contain, and possess God in any way.
“Of course God is so close to us that God is the reality in which we live and move and have our being. Yet, at the same time, in this way of paradox, we must assert and strive to experience God as totally other, totally different, totally beyond all that I stand for.”We must abandon “so much that is familiar to us,” the archbishop affirmed, and be lured by the mysterious nature of God.”To say ‘God’ is to say that at the heart of the world we live in, the world of people and things, there lies an unfathomable mystery,” he affirmed, “and to say this is to assert that, in the end, there is the possibility that it all may have some ultimate meaning, that it may, after all, be worthwhile.”
The “lure of God is that of adventure,” Archbishop Nichols said, because we “cannot pin down or control a transcendent God.””To seek God is to embark on an adventure which is far from secure and domestic,” he added.The prelate challenged his listeners to “go beyond the external pointers to God, in the material world, in a particular form of liturgy or music, or even a particular way of devotion.”
“This is not easy! “It is a constant, life-long task in which I suspect we make progress very slowly.”
“Only occasionally do we sense a clearing away of so much clutter that we can glimpse, be filled with a perception of the simple Truth, Love and Beauty of God,” the archbishop observed.
The second part of the quest, he said, which is “intermingled with the first” is “the struggle to find the inner depth of myself.”Archbishop Nichols suggested: “We have to move beyond the functions, the work and the tasks in which we are engaged and which so often constitute our sense of self. We are not what we do.”
“Yet we also have to move beyond our inner world, our private world of emotions and thoughts if we are to penetrate our true depth. “This does not mean ignoring these powerful inner realities. They are there whether we spend time observing them or not. Rather we have simply to try to move beyond them, find the space behind them, go deeper. In this depth, the image of God resides in us” and as well, “this is the space, the place, where God and we meet and become one. The third step, he said, is to receive the Word of God and let it “give rise to grace-filled action.””This Word of God has been made fully flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth,” the archbishop stated and thus His words and actions are “the gold-plated key to the doors of the mystery of God and to our inner selves.”
He concluded by urging his listeners to “strive not for an experiential knowledge of God for its own sake, not for a love of the things of God for their sake, but so that we may be filled with his Word and be changed.”

This talk by Archbishop Nichols is part of a series, “Silence in the City,” being hosted at Westminster Cathedral on the topic of prayer and Christian contemplation.

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