How Do We Know God?

I suppose the first step in understanding our spirituality necessarily needs to ask the questions who is God and how do we know Him/Her. Who God is for us, like any other human relationship, depends upon how we know Him/Her as an individual. I dare say that since we cannot step into the mind of another being, even in the case of human-to-human relationships, that we can’t really know who another being is by any means other than observing how they act, what they say, and what they ultimately stand up for. In other words, we get to know another being, indirectly, by observing how they interact with us and the world around them. Since we cannot read the thoughts of others, nor observe responses, comments and actions in situations when we are not immediately present, then, at any point in time, we can only possibly know a part of that person: the part that we have been privy to observe or experience directly. This is ultimately true no matter how close we believe we are to them. It is always possible, and likely probably, that anyone, including ourselves will exhibit different aspects of who we are depending upon the situation we find ourselves in or that we must respond to. Since we can only have a limited view of another being, constrained by the limits of our particular perspective, we can never completely know the full depth and breadth of another being. Our inherent inability to fully know another person from the inside, because of our limited perspective, becomes many times more true if that other person is God Herself.

So how do we get to know God? Saint Faustina, in her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, relates how, in meditation on the Holy Trinity, she once asked Jesus who God is. Perhaps to her surprise, Jesus answered her in words, through a vision, with the following:

“”Who God is in His essence, no one will fathom, neither the mind of Angels nor of man.” Jesus said to me, “Get to know God by contemplating His attributes.””

“Attributes”! What are they? The first thing we should notice is that attributes were stated in the plural, which would indicate that God has many. Websters defines attributes as: “a quality, character or characteristic ascribed to someone or something.” So God is telling us that if we want to know Him/Her, then we should not try to fathom God’s mind or His intentions, but rather to look at what qualities, character or characteristics that he actually exhibits. Qualities, character or characteristics covers a lot of ground. There are many universal attributes that have been attributed to God through time and history. I am sure we could all come up with a long list of things we have heard said about God. What I believe is most important, is what do you say about God? What qualities, character or characteristics have you actually experienced from God? Since each of us were created uniquely, I am betting we each will have a slightly different perspective and view of God’s attributes and therefore will have experienced Him/Her differently despite the universal attributes already ascribed to God. Knowing who God is for us, begins with noticing which of God’s attributes have most directly impacted our individual lives. Only by noticing these will we begin to discover how to know God.

Reflection Questions: What attributes do we know about God through scripture? What attributes do you know, or suspect about God through your own life experiences? What attributes do you want God to have, and are they different from what you already know?

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