Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.
He is a community-builder, lecturer and writer. His books are popular throughout the English-speaking world and his weekly column is carried by more than seventy newspapers worldwide.
THE REALITY OF GOD
Ruth Burrows once presented the the following image: “A baby in its mother's womb is in a relationship with her but is unaware of it and does not respond to the mother's intense love and desire to give herself to the child. The relationship with God on the human side can remain as minimal as that of the baby.”
This image, a baby in its mother's womb though unaware of the mother, is a rich minefield for prayer and reflection.
The reality of God does not depend upon our conscious awareness of it. God does not cease to exist simply because we cease to think about God. God's reality is not threatened by our lack of awareness.
This image can help us better understand something else, namely, the Christian doctrine of creation. Most of the time, almost all of us misunderstand this doctrine. We believe that God created us (past tense) and that we now somehow have life and existence independent of God. But that notion, common though it is, is false.
The dogma of creation asks us to believe that God is actively creating us right now and is sustaining us in being right now. There is no past tense as regards creation. If God, even for a second, ceased creating and sustaining us, we would cease to be. We have no reality independent of God, no more than a baby in the womb is independent of its mother. The baby may not be aware of the mother, but the mother's reality is what is massive, life giving, and life sustaining. That is also true in our relationship to God.
We are the baby and God is the mother gestating us. Our lack of conscious awareness of that fact in no way diminishes its reality or its importance.
The task of prayer is precisely to make us more consciously aware of that relationship of creation, providence, and love that exists between God and ourselves. To pray is to learn that and to pray even more deeply is to learn the intense love and desire of that Mother, God, to give herself to us.