Br Gabriel and I recently spent two weeks visiting All Soul’s St Gabriel’s School in Charters Towers. This is my third such visit to ASSG. During our time there we had opportunity to spend time with each of the year levels (5-12). In a session with Yr 11 we played a short segment from the video The Power of One. In this segment Gideon Duma is trying to engage PK to set up a school to teach english. PK is resistant to the idea – especially as Gideon is trying to use the legend of ‘the rainmaker’ to motivate people to participate in Gideon’s plans to have his people learn english. PK reminds Gideon that neither of them believe in the myth of ‘the rainmaker’. Gideon responds by saying he will use anything if it will bring hope to his people and free them from the effects of apartheid. In the final part of the exchange Gideon challenges PK by saying ‘what do you believe in’. We then invited the students to select one or two photos we had laid out which describes what it is they believe in. I think this was a bit of a challenge for most of them but there were some interesting responses non the less. This of course prompted me to reflect on what it is that I believe in; it was then that I realised the enormity of the task I had laid out for the Yr 11s. It is not as straight forward an answer as one might first think. To answer that question I have to explain my backward logic. You see, I look around me at the wonder of creation, of all that lives and breathes and ask myself the question where did all this come from. When you begin to answer that question you invariably come to y was created by x and so forth untill you reach the first created thing, and that which created it is that which cannot be created or destroyed. We Christians refer to this eternally existing entity as ‘God’. Thus I believe in ‘the maker of heaven and earth of all things seen and unseen’. To people who want to challenge my belief of this I offer a counter challenge – if you can create so much as a hydrogen atom using only the contents of an absolute vacuum then I’ll believe what ever you want. I’m being a bit flippant but the point is that whatever created that which is created would be ‘God’.

How we understand ‘God’ has become widely skewed by language, culture, time. As human beings we can only communicate our experience of ‘God’ in human language. In doing so we invariably anthropomorphise (given human qualities and characteristics) ‘God’. We describe ‘God’ in human terms giving ‘God’ human traits and identity. The trouble with this is that we begin to view and understand ‘God’ as a human being which immediately narrows our understanding to the level at which we understand ourselves. As Christians we rely on preceeding generations of people from various languages and cultures to inform our understanding of the nature of ‘God’. We have to try and interpret their experience of ‘God’ expressed in falible human language across time and culture; perhaps comparing and contrasting this to our own experience of ‘God’.

So can we ever fully comprehend ‘God’. This is where discussions often get very interesting, and sometimes heated. As a Christian I believe that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. You see, I like others, believe that the Divine Being became incarnate in human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As the human incarnation of the Divine Jesus was both human and Divine; that as a person Jesus retains all the qualities, attributes, essence of ‘God’ as well as those of humanity. Thus in Jesus we can begin to understand in our own simple human frail way something of the nature of ‘God’.

Thus I believe that in order to understand ‘God’ we must first begin to understand Jesus. The teachings and ministry of Jesus as reported in the New Testament are underpinned by a profound message; ‘God’ is the ultimate expression of love, compassion and sacrifice.

Furthermore, ‘God’ calls us to become expressions of this same sense of love, compassion and sacrifice and in so doing we come into union with ‘God’. As both ‘God’ and Man Jesus shows us the way to ‘God’; the way by which we become one with ‘God’. Our task then is to so model our lives on Jesus that we become ‘God’ like. It is through Jesus that we have ‘life like God’.

Religion is born out of this desire to understand and partake in the nature and life of ‘God’. Many young people told me that they have no need for religion – it’s outdated, unnecessary, corrupt, irrelevant and some other more choice words.

When I look around the world, at the increasing violence, exploitation of the poor and marginalised, destruction of the environment, I ask myself why it is that young people do not see religion as an option. Religion might be not its best advertisement but the message of ‘God’ incarnate – Jesus – remains relevant, necessary and its integrity intact. If religion, Christianity, offers nothing to those who would dismiss it surely it offers hope and a way out of certain death for an imploding world.

My prayer for these young cynics is that they might experience the ultimate expression of love, compassion and sacrifice revealed to us in ‘God’ incarnate Jesus. That they might look passed the human frailty of the Church and see that it offers them hope and deliverance.