Monday, June 27, 2005

If Only You Knew

When someone receives a revelation from a saint, or hears from someone who has had a direct vision of the life to come, be it heaven, hell, or purgatory, the urgency of it is often preceded by: "If only you knew..." If only we knew what they know, if only we could see what they see, how different our lives would be!

Our Lord has said the same thing to the Samaritan woman at the well: "If only you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is speaking to you..." (John 4:10). The problem is, we don't know, or at least we don't know as fully as we'd like to know, and sometimes that hinders us from giving ourselves completely to God and to the carrying out of his will. Yet, as I wrote in my last post, our faith requires us to live as if we did know, as if we saw more clearly than we actually do.

But do we really not know? It's true that we don't have the unmediated vision of God that the blessed enjoy in heaven. Yet I think that more has been revealed to us than we'd like to let on, and so we try to hide behind the excuse that the Mysteries of God are opaque and inaccessible, so we just live according to our own lights. One commonly misunderstood Scripture text seems to put the heavenly revelations of God beyond our grasp in this life: "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1Cor. 2:9). But read the whole sentence: "That which no eye has seen nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit." So there is much we do, or can, know if we sincerely seek the face of God.

It remains true, however, that there are some things we will simply not know through direct experience in this life. Faith has to carry us. But our constant meditation on the word of God and the mysteries of eternity should keep our thoughts and behavior at the level of one who does know, who knows enough, anyway, to live with a heart set on eternal communion with Lord and not on the passing vanities of this life.

Our desire to know should simply come from a longing to love Jesus more perfectly, and not from curiosity about miracles and extraordinary supernatural phenomena. In the same chapter of John quoted above, Jesus sighed, not without a bit of exasperation: "Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe" (4:48).

In summary, then, realize that God has already revealed much, so there is still much that can be known in this life. Accept that some things are reserved for the next life, and humbly carry on in faith. Seek God not for the sake of extraordinary manifestations, but only to love Him more, and to receive the grace to enter eternal communion with Him. If only you knew how much good this would do for you...