Many sincere believers lack a proper understanding of God. These people have caricatured his face. The caricature is increasingly unacceptable to today’s men and women – and they are quite right to reject it because it represents the face of a false God.
Who is God for us? Is our God all-powerful in human terms or all-powerful through his loving activity in the world?
If we think of God as all-powerful in human terms, there is a danger of confusing faith with passivity: “God does everything,” “leave it to God.” There is the greater danger of gradually constructing a religion based on slavery and fear: God’s favor must be earned; avoiding punishment, particularly that of eternal damnation, depends on obedience. And worse still, we drag God into blind alleys and we blame him for unfair deaths and for all the sufferings that crush humanity.
If we think of God as all-powerful through love, then we try, step by step, to live our lives as a loving response to that love which is ceaselessly offered but never imposed. We are astonished to discover how free we are before God, responsible for our own lives, for the lives of our brothers and sisters and of the world.
The most important part of our faith is to believe that we are infinitely loved. If we accept this love, we change completely. We are “re-created,” and from being servants we become free children of an “adorable” Father. Because of love and not out of duty we do our best to gratify the Father’s every wish.
My God, I don’t believe
that you cause the rain to fall or the sun to shine,
so that the christian’s corn will grow
or the parish priest’s Bazaar will be a success;
that you find work for the virtuous unemployed person
but leave others to search alone
and never find a job;
that you protect from accidents
the child whose mother prays
and allow the other one to be killed,
the little one who has no mother to storm heaven;
that you give us food to eat
when we ask you for it,
and allow people to die of hunger
when we stop asking for your help.
My God, I don’t believe
that you lead us wherever you want us to go,
and that we only have to let ourselves be led:
that you send us hardship
and all we can do is to accept it;
that you offer us success
and we only have to thank you for it;
that when you make a decision,
you know what is good for us
and it is up to us to accept with resignation.
No, my God, I don’t believe
that you are a dictator,
imposing your will,
for the good of your people;
that we are puppets
and that you pull the strings
whenever you feel like it;
that you make us play out a mysterious drama
in which the smallest details
have been preordained by you since the beginning of time.
No, I don’t believe it,
I no longer believe it,
because I know now, my God,
that this is not what you want,
that you couldn’t do this,
because you are LOVE,
because you are our FATHER
and because we are your children.
Forgive us, oh my God,
for having distorted your image as a loving Father.
We believed that in order to know and understand you
we should imagine you
endowed with infinite power and authority,
of the kind that we humans too often seek.
Thinking of you and speaking about you,
we have used words that are alright in themselves,
but in our closed hearts they have turned into traps
and we have translated:
the will of God,
judgement. . .
into the language of arrogant men and women
who dream of dominion over their brothers and sisters;
and we have assigned to you:
suffering and death,
while what you wish for us is
happiness and life.
Forgive us, oh my God,
because we haven’t had the courage to believe that, through your love for us,
you have always wanted us to be free,
free not just to say yes or no
to what you have decided for us in advance,
but free to reflect,
to act as independent beings
throughout our lives.
We haven’t had the courage to believe
that you wanted our freedom so much
that you risked sin, allowing us the freedom to sin,
that you risked evil,
spoiled fruits of our misused freedom,
awful consequence of our rejection of your love,
that you risked losing,
in the eyes of many of your children,
your halo of infinite goodness
and the glory of your omnipotence.
We haven’t had the courage to understand
that when you wanted to reveal yourself to us definitely,
you came on this earth,
and that you died on a cross,
to signify to the world that your only power
is the infinite power of love,
love which frees us,
so that we can love.
I know now, my God, that you can do everything
. . . except take our freedom away from us!
Thank you, my God, for this beautiful and frightening freedom,
supreme gift of your infinite love.
We are free!
Free to harness nature, little by little,
and to use it in the service of our sisters and brothers;
free to abuse it
by exploiting it for our own advantage;
free to protect and develop life,
to fight against suffering
or free to squander intelligence, energy, money,
to manufacture weapons
and to kill each other;
free to give or not to give children to you;
free to organize the sharing of our wealth,
or to allow millions of human beings
to die of hunger on fertile land;
free to love
or free to hate,
free to follow you
or to reject you.
We are free. . .
but loved infinitely.
So I believe, my God,
that because you love us and because you are our Father
you have always wanted us to be happy forever,
that you always propose
but never impose.
I believe that your Spirit of love
at the center of our life,
whispers to us, faithfully, each day,
the desires of your Father.
And I believe that amid the great dove-tailing
of human freedoms,
the events that touch us, all our involvements,
those we have chosen
and those we haven’t chosen,
sources of joy or of cruel suffering,
all of these,
through us and for us,
with the help of your Spirit who is with us,
thanks to your love for us in your son,
thanks to our freedom to be open to your love,
all of these can be providential,
each time they become part of us.
Oh my great and loving God,
so humble and unobtrusive before me
that I cannot reach out and understand you
unless I become like a little child,
let me believe with all my strength
in your only omnipotence:
the omnipotence of your love.
Then, one day, in union with my sisters and brothers,
proud of having lived my life as a free human being,
“Go my child, your faith has redeemed you.”
Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love God has already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his sons – this was his pleasure and purpose. Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear son. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. And God showed his love for us by sending his only son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. (1 John 4:8-10)