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Where is God?

Up in the sky? If so, he’s out of our reach.

What is God?

A scary old guy who punishes and rewards?

If so, we’re out of God’s reach.

Either way, stereotypes of God separate us from true divinity. True divinity can be found within us. It’s a Holy Spirit called a conscience. Our soul is seeded with it at birth and our family is designed to nurture and grow it through the nourishment of love, empathy, teamwork, discipline, temperance, and fun. Without that nurturing, our conscience descends into selfishness, which is the root of all evil.

That evil is the cause of wars between people and countries and keeps God and man out of each other’s reach. Closing that gap starts with prayer. This isn’t a secret, it’s an ancient line of communication dating back to Moses. As Sunday’s first reading tells us (Dt 30:10-14),

Moses said to the people: “If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law. … For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. … No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

Jesus himself was schooled in the art of prayer, and his life as a human was our roadmap for following him to God’s home within us. That home is a universe of love that gives everything in our lives integrity. As Paul tells the Colossians in Sunday’s second reading (Col1:15-20), although Christ may be invisible …

… all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

His teachings inform our conscience, and no parable of his is more instrumental in conscience formation than the Good Samaritan, which we share this Sunday (Lk 10:25-37). It was inspired by the question, “who is my neighbor?” A stranger lying beaten and bloody in the street? The priest and Levite making a large detour around this victim didn’t think so. But the “Good” Samaritan (as opposed to the rest of them judged by their enemies as lousy) had a fully formed and well-nourished conscience that enabled this act of compassion:

He poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’

Jesus asks who this man’s neighbor was. He might have asked instead, who and where was God? Turns out, God was with him. God’s Spirit reached out to this victim, empowered by the Samaritan’s well-developed conscience.

This Holy Spirit can be understood by studying the etymology of the word conscience: from Latin conscientia, from the verb conscire, from con- ‘with’ + scire ‘know’.

God is with us, and we know it.

–Tom Andel