As noted earlier, Catholic faith in the omnipresence of God calls for two important distinctions in its application to the journey of salvation.
Though God is present we may not be aware of the divine dimension of our existence
Sin impedes our experience of God
We sin by turning to God's gifts and seeking in them the happiness we must seek in God himself
Christ comes to awaken us to God
The journey is a lifelong process
Christ's human nature is a model for our journey
We have seen that God is manifested differently in each creature, even though he is fully present to all of them. The second distinction agrees that God is already fully present to us – but the fact that he is as fully present as ever he will be on his part does not mean that we are actually experiencing his presence.
If I were to stand out of doors facing the noonday sun, the light of the sun would be fully present to me. If I were blind, however, I would see nothing. If I were seated in a concert hall with an orchestra playing a glorious symphony of Beethoven, his great music would be present to me and to all in that hall. But if I were deaf, I would hear nothing. If someone were to sprinkle on me expensive perfume so that a glorious fragrance surrounded me, the fragrance would be present to me. But if my olfactory nerves were dead, I would smell nothing. If someone were to brush my fingers against the finest fur or smoothest silk, a wonderful sense experience would thereby be present to me. But if my fingers were numb, I would feel nothing. If one of the world's great chefs were to prepare a superb dish for me and invite me to eat, a wonderful savor would be present to me. But if my taste buds had been destroyed, I would taste nothing.
Let us recall the words of Saint Paul describing God's presence: "In him we live and move, and have our being." According to Saint Paul, God is fully present around us and within us.
We are like fish swimming in an ocean of divine love. Unfortunately, we are blind and deaf fish, unable to see and hear his presence. We are unable to taste or feel his presence. We are unable to detect the wonderful fragrance that accompanies his presence.
What impedes our ability to respond to God even though he has been fully present in our lives from the beginning? Jesus informs us that the primary barrier to our experience of God's presence is sin. We sin by turning to his gifts and seeking in them a happiness that only God can provide.
We act as if these precious gifts did not come from him but belong by right to us. Thus do we use his gifts to shut him out of our lives. The consequences of sin are spiritual blindness and deafness. Sin destroys the spiritual faculties that would allow us to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch his presence.
The symbols of sin in the gospels are precisely such physical disabilities as blindness, deafness, and leprosy. These disabilities come with the partial or complete loss of vital responsiveness.
As Jesus went about healing the sick, bringing the dead to life, restoring sight to the blind, granting hearing to the deaf, making the paralyzed mobile, he was teaching us that he has the power to heal our spiritual illnesses. He was teaching us that he has the power to open us to the experience of the Father's presence.
Christ comes, therefore, not to bring God to us or bring us to God, since God is already fully present to us. Christ comes to effect the interior changes in us that will open us to the experience of God's presence. Christ comes to loosen our myopic concentration on the wonderful gifts God has given to assist us on our journey of salvation. As these internal changes take place, we gradually become awakened more and more to the presence of God in our lives.
The journey of salvation is not a journey in space but a process of awakening to God's presence. It is a coming alive through Christ to the richness of the creative power of God's love. It is an awakening to a love that was with us from the beginning.
The awakening happens with a radical transformation of the soul. This transformation is known as sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace provides for a greater participation in God's life than is possible through human nature in itself.
The growth of sanctifying grace in us entails a complex progression of interior change. Its dynamic growth affects every aspect of our internal lives – our souls, heads, hearts, imaginations, and emotions.
Internal spiritual growth has been the object of study and reflection for two thousand years by the inspired writers of the New Testament, the early Fathers of the Church, great theologians and spiritual directors, and mystics and saints. Internal spiritual growth is the object of what is known as moral and spiritual theology. Moral theology examines, among other things, the nature of sin, redemptive grace, sacraments, virtues, vices, and the dynamics of prayer.
The model of the spiritual journey of awakening to God is the human nature of Jesus. In His human life we have the clearest, deepest and most complete expression of the harmony necessary between human and divine natures to remove all obstacles to the face to face encounter with God. As Christ grows in us, step by step purifying and reshaping our inner lives into his image and likeness, we progressively awaken to God's presence.
At first we become conscious of God's love around us. Then we become aware of God's love within us. Jesus teaches us that "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." He adds as well, "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him."
Christ is the unique way of salvation who reveals to us how to come alive to God. We will now seek to learn from the life and teaching of Christ the basic dynamics of the spiritual journey of awakening to God's presence.
 Acts 17:28.
 2 John 14:6-7.
Father Antoninus Wall, O.P. "The Awakening." Chapter 3 in The Journey to God (Antioch, CA: Solas Press, 1999): 21-24.
Reprinted by permission of Father Antoninus Wall and Solas Press.
Father Antoninus Wall, O.P., a native of San Francisco, is the son of Irish-born parents, and the brother of the late Fr. Kevin Wall, O.P. Fr. Wall attended St. Ignatius prep in the Bay City and St. Mary's College of California. Entering the Dominican Order, he pursued his sacred studies at St. Albert's College in Oakland and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He was ordained in Rome in 1950.
Fr. Wall has had a career rich in pastoral and academic experiences. He has served as associate pastor in Seattle and as Professor of Theology at Immaculate Heart and Dominican College. He negotiated the entry of the Dominicans into the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and served two terms there as President of the Dominican School. He currently resides at St. Albert's Priory in Oakland, California. Father Wall is the author of The Journey to God. Father Wall may be reached by phone at 510-596-1800 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2010 Solas Press
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