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To Seek and Find God

There was once a man banished to Siberia. He was pious, but morose and bitter. You see, while a child, his uncle had caused great pain, killing his mother and squandering his inheritance. In a fit of youthful fury, the man shot and wounded his uncle, and now served out his sentence. He married, and settled down, but was never free of a deep gnawing anger. One day, as he wrestled with his anger and knelt in prayer, the man heard a voice in the breeze, “I am coming.” “It is the Lord,” he said to himself, and he became obsessed. His only care was to meet his Savior. He had has wife set the table every night in case the Lord arrived. But no one came. He prayed more earnestly. He longed for Christ. He sought him in every breath. Nothing. Then one day, he heard again in the breeze, “I am coming, soon.” He set out to prepare for a banquet and invited all the neighbors, even the beggars and destitute. This would be the day. They gathered and waited. Immediately, a storm arose outside. It was cold and windy. The crowd waited longer, wondering if this guest would arrive. No one came, and they proceeded to bless the food. No one still. A heavy gust of wind shook the house. The door blew open. A brilliant light shown out of it, and a disheveled old man fell through. The host lifted up the old man and began to weep. He laid him in his bed, nourished and warmed him, and then fell on his knees asking the visitor to forgive him. Who was it? It was his uncle. The uncle had come a long way to find his nephew and reconcile. When the storm picked up he lost his way and despaired. Just then, some few yards from the nephew’s home, he met a man, a beautiful man, glowing in wondrous brightness. “Come with me,” the divine being told him, “I am going to a banquet, but you can take my seat.”

God comes to a man who seeks him. What is preventing God from coming to us? Are we seeking? What is stifling our search? Is there sin, anger, selfishness, or distraction stuffing up our hearts that needs to be healed? What must we do to find Him?

“And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple” (Luke 2:42-46).

“Aνεζήτουν αὐτὸν... καὶ μὴ εὑρόντες.” “They sought him . . . and he was not found.”

They lost God. It was a dark night of the soul. They felt what modern man feels so often, emptiness and dryness. Then they sought for God, but could not find him.

“O God … My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1).

“God is not found immediately,” Origen the theologian writes. “Nor is He found among cousins and kindred of the flesh . . . He is not found among the famous of the world . . . they find him nowhere but in the Temple. And you must therefore seek Him there in the Temple, seek Him in the Church.”

“Uπέστρεψαν εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ.” “They returned to Jerusalem.”

They turned around. They repented. They followed their steps backwards. So it has to be with us. How many sins do we carry in our guilty conscience? How many wrong steps have we made, one bad habit after the other, one justification following another? We cannot heal until we will follow our heart back, back to each transgression, back to the root of our hurt and anger, and then offer up our hearts in confession.

Sin is like a deep cut on a tree. Without immediate care, bark will grow over it, time will bury it, but the wound is never really healed. It festers and bulges and hinders the trees growth in secret ways.

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account . . . draw near to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:12-13, 16).

Uπέστρεψαν . . . ἀναζητοῦντες αὐτόν.” “They returned . . . seeking him.”

Aναζητοῦντες comes from two words — zētéō, “seek,” and “aná, “up and down,” “back and forth,” “earnestly, with difficulty.” Origen reads from this word that our Lord’s parents sought him “sorrowfully.” “It was as when you are reading Scripture, and you seek with pain to find the meaning within it, not that you think that the Scripture has erred…but you strive to find the truth that is hidden there” (Origen). They sought with intentionality. “Whoever therefore seeks Jesus must not seek Him carelessly, or disconnectedly, as many seek but do not find Him; but with toil and anxiety” (Origen). They sought for God in humility and purity.

It is possible to seek God in the wrong way. The pharisees were looking for the Messiah, but they did not find him.

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it” (Matthew 16:4).

They wanted big shows, miracles, and power. They found nothing.

St. Augustine the Great tells how he once searched for Truth with pride. He studied holy books with “critical discussion rather than pious research.” Immorality blinded his heart. “Through my lax morals I closed off my own access to the Lord. In my pride I dared to seek that which no one can find unless he practices humility” (St. Augustine).

“The Lord does not seek the monk or the layperson, the scholar or the simpleton, the rich man or the pauper, but only the heart that thirsts for God, full of a sincere desire to be true to Him and His commandments!” St. Ephraim the Syrian teaches.

“The Lord seeks a heart filled to overflowing with love for God and our neighbor,” St. Seraphim of Sarov explains. “[Love] is the throne on which He loves to sit and on which He appears in the fullness of His heavenly glory. ‘Son, give Me thy heart,’ He says, ‘and all the rest I Myself will add to thee,’ for in the human heart the Kingdom of God can be contained.”

We will only find God with pure hearts.

2024 will usher in all manner of crises. Heaven can only guess what. Whether it is another epidemic, political turmoil, climate change, border control, or the newest developments in A.I., we know one thing. We will all face a crisis of distraction.

Of all people, Søren Kierkegaard felt, modern man is least likely to find God. We are too busy. “Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy,” he says. “To be a man who is brisk about his food and his work.” We live with too much noise. “Even if the Word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, how could one hear it with so much noise?” The philosopher wrote this in the 19th century. This was before cell phones (if you can believe it). It was before traffic, instant shopping, texting, zooming, tweeting, and tiktoking. What would the philosophers say to our own world? Is it possible anymore to seek and find God?

It is possible, but it is harder than we think. It will take sacrifice, and greater sacrifice than we might like.

It is a good thing that the year starts with the Feast of Our Lord’s Circumcision. This is how we must start our year. What needs to be cut off?

“Mετὰ ἡμέρας τρεῖς, εὗρον αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ.” “After three days, they found him.”

God longs for us. He seeks us with an open heart. He wants to rest in our hearts, and for us to rest in His.

So, again, I will ask, what is preventing God from coming to us? Are we seeking? What is stifling our search? Is there sin, anger, selfishness, or distraction stuffing up our hearts? What must we do to find Him?


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