I was having a conversation with a grade 10 student the other day. We were talking about various questions that came up in his religion class, most of which revolved around the question of God’s providence and foreknowledge. As we talked about our place in the world in relationship to God, he made this observation:
“So… are we… like God’s pets?”
I chuckled, and said no. I said that we are definitely not God’s pets, but rather His adopted children in Christ. However, his question remained in my mind for a few days. And as I began to reflect on it, I realized that I too have this kind of attitude towards my relationship with God from time to time. What attitude is that? – I want to state it in as clear a way as possible, even at the risk of sounding blunt. This attitude is not living as if God did not exist, but as if God had never revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.
Hopefully none of us will outright deny that God has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ, but I wonder if perhaps you also catch yourself sometimes thinking, speaking, or acting this way. Like my young friend, I do not always think about, speak about, or act in relation to God in a specifically Christian way.
What do I mean by a specifically Christian way? Well, it is not a Catholic secret that God exists. While there have always been atheists and agnostics throughout history, the vast majority of people throughout history believe in some kind of “higher power,” and that we are somehow accountable to he/she/it/them, and that we should worship / communicate with / petition this “higher power.” And as we all know, the Church teaches that these non-Christians who “through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – these too may achieve eternal salvation.” (CCC 847)
Are we not called to do the same? Of course we are. But then what’s the point of being a Catholic Christian? The point is that humankind is not only called to this, but to much, much more. Believing in God, living according to one’s well-informed conscience, and loving and serving others is good, but in this way, one’s relationship with God remains on a creaturely, external, “natural” level. So we return to the question: what then is a relationship with God that is specifically Christian?
“The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (CCC 234)
The truth is that man is called to enter into the life and love of the Trinity. This is one of the reasons why the Word became flesh (CCC 460). The 2nd person of the Trinity did not become incarnate only to wash away our sins, and not even only to give us an example of how to live after baptism, but to make us members of His body, and through this union with Him, to have a share in God’s own life, a place in the Trinity. This is what is specifically Christian. When we begin to realize the gift we have received in our baptism, that our life of union with the Trinity begins even now on earth, we will gradually begin to leave behind a merely natural way of thinking about, speaking about, and relating to God that is not really any help to evangelization. Because if your life does not proclaim that God has revealed Himself and His love for us in Jesus Christ, it’s not proclaiming anything that the world already doesn’t know – even if it only knows it in well intentioned, but unclear ways. The Church’s expression of this specifically Christian faith, the central mystery of our faith, also serves to help “train” us to live this Trinitarian life which we have begun to share in. For example, we always pray “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” at every Mass, through the Holy Spirit, we join in Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father, etc. It is no service to ourselves or to our neighbours to hide this.
So what is your relationship with God like. Do you see yourself as merely His pet? As His servant? Or as His son or daughter, and therefore heir, in Christ?