How Can We Know the Way to God? (Part I of II)


Dear Father John, I know the apostles ask Jesus this same question: How can we know the way? But, seriously, what if we want to go to God but we don’t know how. How can we know the way?

EMOTIONS PROVIDE THE energy we need to take action in life. But they need to be educated so they can move us toward actions that truly contribute to what is best for us and for the world around us. The wild horse needs to be taught to obey its wise rider.

That rider may want to go in the right direction–his or her heart may be in the right place. But what if the rider simply doesn’t know the way to get there? What if the rider’s intelligence lacks the necessary knowledge and light and capacity to recognize the proper landmarks and follow the true path? In that case, it will be impossible to make progress. This is why our Lord singled out this capacity of the human person when he gave us the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God…with all your mind” (Mark 12:30, emphasis added).

A Darkened Mind

Original sin ruptured the original harmony that God had built into the human family’s relationship with himself, with the created world, and with each other. It also wounded human nature from within, including our spiritual faculties (intelligence and will). Before the Fall, our first parents saw and grasped clearly God’s plan for themselves and for the world. They saw things as God saw them.

LilienfeldBible3AdamAndEveThen, after the Fall, humanity became “subject to ignorance,” as the Catechism puts it (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 405). The world became a place full of shadows and threats. God became distant and mysterious, and religion degenerated, in most cases, into fear-inspired superstition. The human person became a puzzle to himself; the true meaning of human life, our origin, our purpose, and our path to achieve that purpose, became shrouded in darkness. Mankind became lost in a labyrinth of confusion that our own rebellion against God had constructed. St. Paul reveals the starkness of the situation, commenting on the persistent wickedness of a fallen race:

For although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:21—25)

The Coming of the Light

An essential ingredient in God’s plan for redeeming such a benighted human family, therefore, was light–the light of truth. The story of salvation includes a gradual, gentle, and glorious revelation of the truth about God, the world, and ourselves. This revelation began immediately after the fall of our first parents, continued and developed throughout the history of the Old Covenant, and reached its culmination in the incarnation, life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The New Covenant in Jesus, also known as the New Testament, explains and brings to fulfillment all that went before in the Old Testament. In Christ, we have been given new access to the truth that our minds were created to discover, explore, and grasp. We have been shown a sure path out of the deadening ignorance that forms part of the inheritance of sin: “I am the light of the world,” Jesus proclaimed (and he certainly proclaimed it with a beaming and inviting smile, not with a fierce and ferocious frown); “whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Editor’s Notes:

Art: Bible of Lilienfeld, anonymous, 13th century, PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons.

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