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On Knowing God

His Grace Bishop Alexander recently addressed the Antiochian Women of the Diocese of Ottawa, Eastern Canada and Upstate New York. His remarks were published in the journal, "Diakonia," and are reprinted here for our edification.

In the Gospel we read on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (John17:1-13), Jesus says in what is commonly known as His High Priestly prayer: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. The letters of St. Paul are replete with references to knowing God. For example in his letter to the Ephesians 1:17, St. Paul says: That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. In Philippians 3:8 he says: Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…and in verse 10, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.

When we think "knowing," we think about head knowledge and data. People of old conceived of "knowing" as an experience or an encounter. Many years ago I was on a bus tour in France and happened to sit next to an evangelical lady from the US. We started talking about Christ and after a long discussion the lady declared to me, "You have met Him (Christ)." I insisted that I had been baptized. She reiterated that I "had met Him". It was not till much later that I understood what she had meant. Many people know about God but very few of us baptized Christians know God. Knowing God is being in relationship with God …experiencing His presence in our lives and His forgiveness. It is much like a man and a woman who try to get to know each other before they decide to marry.

But a person may say I can physically be with my future spouse, how can I know God when He is not physically around me? It is Jesus who makes the Father known to us…through the teaching in the Scriptures, through the experience of the Church, through the record of God’s work for His people and through the work of the Holy Spirit within each of us believers. Jesus enables us to recognize God’s presence all around us. He prompts us to pray. Prayer is quite simply talking with God. God isn’t this stern remote person who is difficult to approach. Part of knowing God is to be able to speak freely with a friend. He listens and in the silence of our prayer we can hear Him speak to us. He does not always necessarily give us what we want. He knows what is best for us and if we trust Him then we trust that what comes about is for our edification and well being.

Remember how Mary, Martha’s sister, from the Gospel of Luke 10:38-42, sat at the feet of Jesus listening to Him while Martha worked in the kitchen preparing food. Through listening to Christ and learning from Him she formed a relationship with Him and it is because of that she was able to proclaim in the Gospel of John (11:27) Yes Lord I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world. Mary knew God.

Now I am not suggesting that anyone neglect their families under the pretense of devoting all their time to prayer and reading scripture. Neither am I saying that we become "weird" for Jesus but rather that we become refreshingly different. Central to this "knowing" relationship is that we make a serious effort to leave behind our sinful and devious ways becoming anew in Christ. Of course none of this is magical. Establishing relationships takes time, often a lifetime. It is difficult, challenging and requires a lot of patience but it is not impossible.

However, we cannot do it on our own. We need God to help us to get to know Him and we need His Body and Blood as frequently as possible. Once we know Christ we cannot help but be transformed and once people see how we have been transformed, then they will glorify the God in us.