First, Meet God

by Catherine Doherty

From some religious literature, one can see that a certain notion seems to have taken hold of Catholics and other Christians: that we must seek Christ in our brother. True enough, but this notion seems to imply that the personal approach to Christ in the sacraments and other so-called “old-fashioned ways” is obsolete.

More and more, one reads that the best way to encounter Christ is in and through another human being.

But how can I find Christ in my brother if I do not know Christ? It seems to me that I cannot recognize Him in others if I do not first meet Him as a person.

God gave us two commandments: to love God, and to love our neighbor. In that order! But to love someone I must know him; and to know him I must meet him.

How do I get to know him, so that I can love him and continue to love him in my brothers and to love my brothers because I love him?

I know him because I was baptized into his death and resurrection, and because he knew me first. I know him in the Breaking of the Bread. I know him in the sacrament of repentance (which the Russians call “kiss of Christ”) when I kneel in sorrow in confession.

I know him through the Holy Spirit who came to me in his immense power in Confirmation and who abides with me always.

I know him in prayer, prayer of all kinds, but especially in the prayer of silence. In the inner silence of my own heart he comes with his own intense silence. There he breaks open my heart, quiets the noise, and inspires me to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Yes, I can learn much about him through study, books, and other tools of the mind. But there is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Only those to whom he reveals himself know him.

This brings us back again to prayer and the sacraments.

It is through these that we make a vital contact with Jesus Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. It is through these that we get to know God. Only then, it seems to me, can we go forth to others, to our brothers, to all humanity, and there recognize him in men.

If our love of God, the fruit of which is our love for men, is not present, why do we not call ourselves what we are—humanitarians—instead of Christians?

“How can I find Christ in my brother if I do not know him personally—if I do not love him first?” I have given my answer. If anybody has another, I’d be glad to hear it.

Excerpted and adapted from Gospel without Compromise, (1989), pp.82-83, out of print.