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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
November 18, 1988     The Message
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November 18, 1988

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Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, November 18, 1988 The universal instinct to find God By Father John Castelot NC News Service W hen J;tcob was (m his way north to find a wife from among his father's relatives, he had a strange experience. He stopped for a night's rest at a place already sacred to his people -- Abraharn had built an altar there. Jacob's rest was far from dreamless. In a vision he saw a stair- way to the stars with angels scurry- ing up and down between heaven and earth. And he heard the Lord assuring him of his protection and blessing. When Jacob woke up, he exclaim- ed, "Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!... This is nothing else but an abode of God and that is the gateway to heaven" (Genesis 28:16-181. tie then consecrated a memorial pillar and called the place Bethel (literally, house of God). Later, Moses had an experience of God in the famous vision of the bur- ning bush. He heard God say, "Come no nearer! Remove the san- dais from your feet for the place where you stand is holy ground" (Fxodus 3:5). It became "holy," special, set apart, because God had manifested his presence there. "In their desire to com- municate with God, the Jews found it very helpful to go to a place he had blessed by his special presence, a place where someone had exper- ienced God in an extra- ordinary way." Of all the places where Israel came to "seek God," the ark of the covenant was the most important. It was an ornate bo x containing the Tell Commandments, a symbol of God's special presence and protec- tion. Whether it was at the shrine of Shiloh or in the temple of Jerusalem, it was a magnet drawing God's peo- ple to him. Of course the)' rcalized that God could not be contained in a box or limited to aim}" locale. We hear Solomon asking, as he contemplates building the temple, "Yet who is really able to build him a house, since the heavens and even the highest heavens cannot contain him?" (2 Chronicles 2:5). Still, in their desire to corn- municate with God, the Jews fimnd it very helpful to go to a place he had hlcssed by his special presence, a place where someone had ex- perienced God in an extraordinary way. In this the)' were responding to a universal human instinct, the instinct to find God. in uniformly flat Babylonia, for in- stance, Babylonians built "moun- t:tins'" for their gods. These were elaborate temple towers called zig- gurats, of the kind which gave rise to the story of the Tower of Babel. It is interesting and significant that (;od's people went to places where God had "found" one of them. They looked for God because he already had been found. And the}' gathered together to celebrate his presence and to share it with each other. Tile question of places of special religious importance came up in Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman. She alluded to the conflict between Samaritans and Jews on the subject: "Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain (Gcrizim). But you people say time place to worship is in Jerus:|lenl'" 0ohn 4:20). Jesus replied, in effect, that time place is irrelevant; the important thing is to worship God under the guidance and inspiration of the Spirit of truth. Jesus was not rejecting places of worship. The first Christians met in each other's houses. Their homes became sacred places where they'ex- pericnced Christ's presence in the i:'ucharist. The risen Lord was the new tem- ple (John 2:19-22). In him they en- countered God in a unique way. There is a strong reflection of this in Jesus' words, "For where two or three are gathered together in my n:uue, there am 1 in time midst of thenl'" (Matthew 18:20). This is how Christians satisfy that universal longing of humanity, the longing for time active, reassuring presence of God. (Father Castelot is a Scriptttre scholar, attthor attd let'tttrer.) Seol'c By Katharine Bird NC News Service J erusalenl is :t hustling. seething, noisy city where helievers of tile world's three major monotheistic religions rub shoulders as they hustle to visit their sacred sites. In the winding, crowded streets of Jerusalem's Old City, Ar:ibs ill tur- hans and coh)rful h)ng gowns finger their prayer beads on the way to the l)ome of the Rock. Its golden dome towers above tlle city and overlooks in the distance the Mount of Olives. The dome houses the huge rock said to bc tlme place-where Abrahanl was willing to sacrifice Isaac. itere too. M()slems believe, tile founder of their religion, Mohammed, ascended Io Jleavel). Moslen)s conic It) pr:ly [')lit ;list) to touch reverent|v a carefully preserved relic of Mohanmled, the imprint of his feet. Orthodox Christian priests and Ronlan Catholic nlonks and nuns }i wearing traditional hahits hurry tt) i the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or t The thi00 By Theodore Hengesbach NC News Service i recently saw a pol)ulation chart indicating tile nunlher of people belonging to time different world religions. Of the 5 billion pet)ple in tile world, 33 percent are Christian. This means every third person is Christi,re. Among tile ()tiler 67 pcr- cenl. I " percent :ire Moslems, 13 percent Hindus. The rest, in lower pcrcent,lges, include Buddhists, Con- fucians. T;ioists, Shintoists and Jews. About 16 percent profess no religion at ;ill. Those statistics cause me to ask what those 3 billion people believe ahout God, about their lives, :lbout their ultim:tte future. I don't want to create tile impres- sion that 1 believe Christianity is pit- ted in :l spiritual or political battle ag:linst other religions, although some real differences ,rod some con- flict are facts of life. Instead, I want to reflect on what it is that people of religious faith share. My first point is that people of :ill kinds of religious beliefs ask many of tile same kinds of questions about life's meaning, about death, about etllic,ll values. The perspectives in which we c()uch and fr:uue our questions differ and, of course,, tile answers may not come ()tit the same. But we stand together in asking them, a single yet polyphonic chorus of seekers. Ill addition we are bonded, in the words of St. Augustine, hy our restless hearts, which will remain so until tile)' rest in God. The study of world religions frolu ancient times to time present reveals ()tiler colmmlllOlm features. For example, rites of initiation arc con1111on among tile Papu:ms in NeW _.J