Our world offers some pretty strong evidence of the miraculous and of God’s activity and proximity. When we take these things for granted, we often become blind to our maker and His activities. The things that constitute our everyday reality — consciousness, reason, matter, time, space, and life itself — came not from blind accident or from the eternal ebb and flow of mindless matter in motion. They came from an uncaused, rational, perfect being. We are awash in clues of His existence and His nature.
How could we deny miracles and revelation when God’s handiwork is all around us? We are His miraculous creatures, made in His image; we are the crown of His creative activity and plan, the very object of His love and care. In the miracle of our consciousness and reason, our moral sensitivities and sensibilities, God chose to reveal His nature.
As if all that weren’t enough, God also used dramatic miracles to reveal Himself to mankind and to bring about His plan for us. And He did this all while preserving the freedom of choice that is essential to relationship and love. This is precisely why some of us see miracles and others don’t. If God always acted so dramatically we would have no choice but to do as He commands, though we might not love Him. We would be compelled against our will by the sheer scope and size of evidence.
That’s not what God wants for us. He wants us to know Him, not merely to know about Him. He wants us to know Him personally, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, as a free decision of our will. He wants us to know and love Him as sons and daughters.
While knowledge may be grudgingly admitted and accepted, love must be freely chosen. Our love cannot be compelled by anyone. It must be given freely and fully, willingly and joyfully, exuberantly and trustingly. Love can never be commanded, demanded, or compelled.
God Wants Us to Find Him
In keeping with the idea of love and its inherent need for intimate self-disclosure, if God didn’t give us any revelation, we wouldn’t know Him personally, intimately, lovingly. We would simply be solving a puzzle: the puzzle of existence. We would be tackling an intellectual challenge, not striving for our beloved. That’s why the Scriptures and the Church continually remind us of the goal of our quest: to find the God who made us out of love and who sought us before we ever thought to look for Him.
God doesn’t simply want us to find Him in the philosophical, scientific, historical, or ethical sense, though all these ways reveal some of God’s many facets. He wants us to find Him, in the harmony and fullness of all these many dimensions; He wants us to find Him and know Him personally, so that we can truly and fully love Him.
For God reveals His truth and His nature to those who will simply seek. His desire is that we should know and love Him. And unless God reveals Himself, we can’t possibly fully love Him, for love is intimate disclosure. The very nature of love requires disclosure and intimacy, as is evident in our most intimate personal relationships.
This is why God acts dramatically, but in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm our free will. It’s just that simple. And as you contemplate the reality of our human free will, it’s just that essential, just that deep, just that wondrous.
Miracles in History
Some of God’s greatest actions in space and time are recorded in the Scriptures. For instance, one of the most significant miracles in the Old Testament was the deliverance of the Israelites from their captivity and slavery in Egypt. Under the inspired leadership of Moses and with His miraculous acts, God delivered an entire people from their abject, inhuman station in a foreign country that had relied on their forced labor for generations. The Israelites left their captivity in Egypt without an armed revolt, without a negotiated release. They left because circumstances outside the control of human beings, outside the control of slaves and kings, softened Pharaoh’s heart and secured their release.
According to God’s plan, as communicated to Moses in the desert at the burning bush, the entire nation was to abandon the slavery they had endured for centuries, pack up their belongings, and set out on a journey to a place they had never seen, a place they were promised by God in His earlier covenant with Abraham. God promised to set this people free, despite the practical circumstances and wisdom that would preclude such a liberation.
Through Moses’ trusting obedience in the work of divine providence, God enacted His plan to lead His people out of Egypt and to break their yoke of servitude. Forty years later, after a period of disobedience, trial, and eventual maturation, the people of Israel were ready to enter the land God had promised to Abraham.
Beyond this signal event is a thread of dramatic miracles, recounted in both the Old and New Testaments. This is significant, because it demonstrates historical continuity, as well as the continuity of divine intervention. God uses the same kinds of miracles to reveal His nature over time. For example, God miraculously fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna, just as Jesus fed the five thousand who gathered to listen to Him preach in a deserted place. God manipulated matter when He parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape Pharaoh; likewise, Jesus calmed a storm, walked on water, and directed Peter to join Him.
The Miracle of the Incarnation
All these examples of divine intervention are the acts of a kind, loving Father who longs for an intimate, loving relationship with His children and whose divine spark is evident at every moment, no matter how dimly. All these miracles point to a God who is there, a God who is near, a God who is neither silent nor distant. They point to an active and intimate God, who desires that we freely reciprocate His eternal love.
His desire for intimacy with us is so great that He acts in time and in space and speaks in ways discernible to us. He makes His love physically and historically evident, even beyond these miracles of obvious intervention, revelation, and inspiration. For not only did God continually reach out to us in all these revelatory and miraculous ways, but He actually came to live among us.
This fact is so startling, so ridiculous, so deeply miraculous, that it seems hard to entertain as a thought or a real possibility, let alone as historical fact. But this truth is exactly what the Catholic Church has maintained since its inception. It’s what the faith has relentlessly and rigorously explained, defended, and taught right down to our modern times, with all our secular, and scientific bias, with all our prejudice.
Anyone who seeks God must examine and deal with this outrageous claim, this preposterous idea that God would live among us as one of us. For it’s the only belief of its kind. Some religions appeal to so-called prophets of God, to obscure deities, or to intangible dynamics. But only the Church has preached and lived and died for the truth of the God who came and dwelt among us, who made Himself visible, who taught us directly and in person.
From its inception, the Church has taught that God Himself suffered and died for our sins; that He rose from the dead so that we might know, love, and live with Him eternally; that His Spirit dwells within each person who seeks and loves Him; and this same Spirit guides the Church, God’s chosen instrument for bringing salvation and revelation to all men and women.
God became flesh, just as He promised His prophets throughout history. God came to us naturally, yet miraculously as a human being, fully man, yet fully God. He was the coming king and the suffering servant, the longed-for liberator and redeemer. He was the priest, the king, the prophet, the very Son of the Living God. He was the Messiah, the Christ of God. And His name is Jesus.
This article is adapted from a chapter in Mr. Cronin’s new book, The World According to God: The Whole Truth About Life and Living. It is available from your favorite bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.
You can find past (and future) articles by Mr. Cronin here on Catholic Exchange.