Mystical Word  |  Weekly Reflection
Mystical Word is a weekly reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading by L.J. Milone, Director of Faith Formation, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle

Accept God in All Things

Accept God in all things.

Sometimes I meet a person who hasn’t been to church in a while and they tend to say some variation of “Oh, if I walked into a church it would collapse,” or “God would zap me with a bolt of lightning!”  These sentiments belie an understanding of God, namely that God is only in the church and not in the unchurched person’s home or workplace.  In other words, it betrays an assumption that the sacred and the secular don’t mix.  We divide sacred from secular.  According to scholars of religion this is an essential purpose of all the great religions of the world.  They mark off what is sacred from what is mundane or profane.  The Risen Jesus, however, and one of his medieval disciples, Meister Eckhart, overturn this notion of dividing sacred from secular. 

The Risen Jesus does not appear to the disciples only in “sacred places.”  He appears as he chooses, and often in quite secular settings: roads, upper rooms, or on a lake.  A Christian transformed by the Resurrection does not make sharp distinctions between the sacred and the secular, but sees everything as graced, that is, as inhabited and loved by God.  Meister Eckhart helps bring out this theme, for he preaches an everyday mysticism.  In particular, Meister Eckhart has something to say about receiving the Spirit and believing without seeing, which are both themes in today’s Gospel.

Eckhart chided people who connected with God only in special places and through religious means.  He said once, “When people think that they are acquiring more of God in inwardness, in devotion, in sweetness and in various approaches than they do by the fireside or in the stable, you are acting just as if you took God and muffled his head up in a cloak and pushed him under a bench.”  Instead of finding God only in religious exercises, we can discover God in anything and everything.  The Meister counsels us to accept God in all things.  This is how we receive the Spirit that Jesus wants to give us.  We accept God in every experience, every person, every event, every feeling, every pain, and every joy in our lives.  All our experiences are but opportunities to see nothing but God.  Eckhart exclaims, “What is best is to take God and enjoy God in any manner, in any thing, and not to have to exercise and hunt around for your own special way. All my life this has been my joy!”

Moreover, Eckhart says, “Accept all things in God, just as they are.”  He isn’t only playing with words.  He means that we accept our lives and all their content just as they are.  This means that we accept them in God and without judgment or resistance.  We let the contents of our lives be as they are, existing in God, and we take them as existing in God.  For instance, we accept our drive to work as it is, just a drive to work.  We don’t make it into something else by imposing our expectations on it, such as needing to go fast or slow.  More deeply, Eckhart would have us see God in driving to work by being “totally focused upon God and only God.”

To accept God in all things we have to become blind.  Reflecting Jesus’ blessing on those who believe but do not see, Eckhart tells us, “Whoever sees nothing else and is blind sees God.”  Accepting God in all things implies that we are focused on God alone, and not on our attachments – those things we mistakenly believe we need to be happy.  Eckhart, like Jesus, calls us to shed whatever stands in the way of seeing nothing but God.  It is not because all the things of this world are bad.  Eckhart recognizes how “every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.”  All things reveal God, hence his conviction that we can see nothing but God in each and every creature.  We have to be blind to all our self-centeredness so we can be God-centered.

Additionally, we have to let go of assuming God is not in the secular realm and even places, experiences, or people we label as “sinful.”  Eckhart says, "God is equally in all things and in all places, and God is ready to give the divine self in the same way and to the same degree in every circumstance.  The one who knows God best is the one who recognizes him equally everywhere."  God is just as present in the tabernacle as in a bar, or a tree, or a prostitute.  Jesus sees in this way and invites us to this same consciousness.  To see nothing but God is to be living the Resurrection.  It is to believe without seeing and to receive the Holy Spirit.  When we are transformed in this way, then, according to Jesus, we are blessed.