Picture yourself walking into the parish you attend mass at, passing by the seats until you reach the middle of the church. Your gaze is fixed on the Tabernacle, where Our Lord resides, and with great reverence you slowly genuflect, bowing your head as you do, acknowledging His Greatness. As you get back up, you shuffle into one of the sits, pulling down the kneeler, and then taking your prayer stance on your knees. With your index and middle finger, you make the sign of the cross: touching your forehead, your chest, your left then right shoulder.
This is how presence of God is exercised whenever entering a chapel. But more than often I would find that once I left Our Lord’s sacred dwelling that was it! I no longer am in the presence of the Lord. Part of my faith journey was to realise that was not the case. Wherever I may be and whatever I may be doing, God is walking right beside me the whole time. I had great difficulty grasping this idea at first, but once I realised my position in God’s heart – that is, one of the daughter of the King – it became an important aspect of my every day living.
As Our Father, God wants to be part of our daily lives. He wants to embrace us with His Love and Mercy constantly and this can only happen when we open ourselves up to His presence in our own lives. Although challenging, this is not impossible. We can encounter God through 4 different ways:
Encountering God’s presence through people
I can find God within my family, I can find God within my friendships… You can even encounter God through strangers!
TRUE STORY!!! I have been struggling with finding the right career path, as I have been changing from course to course over the last few years. I tried counselling, I tried teaching and I was now thinking about trying massage therapy. I was so confused and frustrated, not knowing whether I should pursue massage therapy. I sat at the train station all alone, waiting for my ride back home and I prayed to God in my mind: “God, I have no idea what to do. I want to try massage therapy, but I’m not sure if that is what YOU want me to do. Please help me make a decision.”
Right at that moment, a little Chinese woman walked into the train station looked at me and smiled at me. She sat beside me and started having a friendly chat with me. As the train came and we both got up, she stopped me and said “It doesn’t matter if you change your mind about what you want to do in life, as long as you are happy.”
Peace filled my heart and I wanted to cry. I knew God was speaking to me through that woman.
Encountering God’s presence through our work
One of the Saints I have grown up to know about is St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, where he preached to lay people about using the means of daily work to find God in our ordinary lives. St Josemaria envisioned ordinary people within the world, taking up ordinary jobs – construction workers, teachers, doctors, hospitality workers, etc. – and offering the best in their work for God.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, was living an ordinary life working as a carpenter for 30 years before He began His ministry. And there is no denying that He was absolutely nailing the exercise of encountering God’s presence in His human work. This is because He would present His best work to God to the best of His abilities.
Only in recent years I realised the importance of God’s presence in my housekeeping job. Every dish I would wash was an opportunity for me to say a little prayer to God. The time I spilled cereal all over the floor was an opportunity for me to laugh with God (“God, you think you are so funny to let these things happen”). Ironing clothes was an opportunity for me to love God, by doing the best work I could to the best of my abilities.
God is right there in the workplace accepting each and every task we do, whether big or small, that we offer up to Him.
Encountering God’s presence through our environment
When I think of environment, I think a lot about nature, being outdoors in a garden, park, the beach… I can see God in the things around me: in the rocks, the trees, the flowers… I can feel God in the things around me: the wind, the rain, the heat of the sun… because the beauty of nature has come from Him.
Haven’t ever gotten up very early in the morning during a sunrise, watched it from a balcony or from your windowsill, and your heart and mind fills with wonder? God, You created this sunrise!
You can encounter God everywhere in nature, because He is the creator of all things! Look at the meticulous design of the maple leaf, the lines, the colours, the stem holding the fibres together to form that leaf. Dip your hand in the beach water, as it flows between your fingers, and the sun enveloping your body with light and shadow.
Take it all in. How can you not find God in all these?
Encountering God’s presence through silence
Many times when I sat all alone in silence I thought I found emptiness. But listening very carefully to that silence, I realised that God is within that silence also.
Take a moment of silence, close your eyes, hear in the silence. Listen to it carefully. There He is. Can you hear it?
Bu-bump. Bu-bump. Bu-bump.
That constant beat?
Bu-bump. Bu-bump. Bu-bump.
He is right there, within you. In your heart, in your body, in your soul.
“The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead LIVES IN YOU.” Romans 8:11
In his book ‘Time for God’, Fr. Jacques Philippe that this is the mode of God’s presence that is of greatest importance: God’s presence in our own heart.
“Entering into his own heart in faith, man unites himself there to this presence.”
(Fr. Jacques Philippe, Time for God)
I realised that I am a daughter created out of love by God the Father. What kind of loving and merciful Father would leave His own daughter without His presence in her life? He is within me through the Holy Spirit. He is within you through the Holy Spirit. He is within every one around us in spirit. HE IS EVERYWHERE.
We can only realise this if we really listen for Him. We can only realise this if we really seek Him honestly and humbly. The best advice there ever is to encountering God’s presence in any moment of our lives is this: