“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near’ (Isaiah 55:6).
What can it mean, while He may be found? And, while He is near? Surely God is everywhere present and fills all things, as we remind ourselves several times each day in our daily prayers. How then does the prophet tell us that we must look for God in the time given us to discover Him? You will answer: Find God during your lifetime, because when you are dead, it’s too late.
But it’s more than that. Jesus Christ says: “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7). It appears that a person need only to go out looking for Him and He will be found. In that case the problem is where to look. In the churches? In these times when traditional religions have internal problems that challenge the beliefs of their members, seekers go out shopping for something, or rather some one who will revive or restore trust and faith in their hearts. What an indictment, when a church doesn’t present Christ to the seekers.
The fault, however, is not always that of the institution, the parish, the congregation or the pastor. What may be missing is the attitude of the searcher. An essential element may be missing in his or her soul. In the gospel of John we read a passage where the same Jesus warns: “You will look for Me but you will not find Me, and where I am you cannot come” (John 7:34). As we age, our faculties weaken. Our eyesight wanes as we grow old, as do our muscles and mental faculties. But this is not what He means.
When we are young, if we are raised in a family that loves and fears the Lord, it’s normal to accept the heavenly Father the way Jesus did in Gethsemane, calling Him “Abba.” God is the best Daddy imaginable. A child knows without thinking much about it that God is there to watch over him or her, protecting and guarding the child directly and through guardian angels and caring saints. Heaven is where most of our family members reside.
In no time at all that simple, wonder-filled faith gets knocked about, challenged, and tested. Where was He when I needed Him most? Why didn’t He help me when the bullies assailed me? Where was He on September 11, 2001? Does one try going on believing as before, despite those questions? Do we try to ignore the evil rampant in the world, or do we struggle with our thoughts, testing out different ideas and theories, working out a theology that takes into account the world as it is, the world as it ought to be (God’s ultimate plan), and the meaning of Christ’s gospel, cross, and resurrection as an answer?
There are reasons why some just quit looking. Many abandon their childlike faith in adolescence or later, deciding there’s nothing to religion but ceremonies and hypocrisy. They have “graduated” from innocence. They are among the intellectuals who know the secret to life: This is all there is, there’s nothing more beyond the grave. Best to enjoy the ride of life while it lasts.
Others know where to look but they can’t stand what they see. They haven’t lost faith. They remember that the entrance to heaven is in their hearts. They have lived with such an abandon, lying, cheating, hating, envying, despising, abusing their bodies and minds to such a degree that they haven’t the courage to face the enemy within. Tell them that God forgives, but they refuse to forgive themselves. Explain to them that the Lord of love has a mystical, inexplicable, even crazy affection for them, and they are afraid to believe it, lest they end up mocked and mocking themselves. The prophet Isaiah writing some 2,700 years ago had a fix on the heart of the human being. He implored us all to Seek the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near. He is indeed closer to us that we are to ourselves, and His ear is always open to our prayer—it’s we ourselves who run and hide, covering our ears and shutting our eyes.