We are all searchers.  To employ a much-used notion: searching is in our DNA as human beings.  In his book, The Inner Search, Dom Hubert Van Zeller put it this way: “As long as earthly life lasts, the search lasts.”  People may search for different things and in different ways but everyone searches.  Some limit their search to what this world offers.  For others the search is for something that transcends this world.

Though they may differ greatly in their conception of the object of their search,  all religions agree in describing that object as the supreme being, the ultimate reality.  As Christians we call that ultimate object of our search God. We also ascribe certain characteristics to our God, the most important being that God is a trinity of persons.  Also essential to our belief is accepting Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our savior.

When we talk about seeking God, it is important to recall a general principle about seeking.  The secret of good seeking is knowing, at least in general, where to look.  Often we are prone to look in the wrong places.  There is an interesting story that speaks in terms of finding God which illustrates that idea.

There was a king who was both very powerful and very much of a tyrant.  He was able to impose his will on his subjects in all things except one.  He was unable to destroy their belief in god.  So he called his three wisest counselors and said: “Tell me, where can I hide this people’s god so that they will be unable to find him.  The first wise man said: “Hide him on the floor of the ocean.  They will not find him there.”  “Not so,” said the second wise man.  “One day these people may learn how to swim to the bottom of the ocean and on that day they will find their God.  Rather hide him beyond the farthest star.”  “No,” said the third wise man, “One of these days people may discover how to fly beyond the stars.  That day they will find their God.  Rather hide him in the everyday lives of the people.  There no one will ever find him.”

There is also an passage in the first book of Kings (19: 9-14) which conveys the same idea.  It tells of the prophet Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb.  When he got there he went into a cave to spend the night.  Then the word of Yahweh came to him.  He was told to go out and stand on the mountain before Yahweh.  It turned out that Yahweh was not where the prophet would typically expect to find  him.

The passage tells us: “There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountain and shattered the rocks.  But Yahweh was not in the wind.  After the wind came an earthquake.  But Yahweh was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire.  But Yahweh was not in the fire.  After the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze.  And when Elijah heard this he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”  Unexpectedly, the Lord came to him, not in the mighty wind, not in the earthquake or the fire, but in the gentle whisper of the breeze.  Often enough God comes to us in unexpected ways.

Ideally, encountering Go is something we should be doing throughout our lives.   But It is not at all easy because encountering God in the events of our daily lives, letting Jesus live through us, requires doing at least three difficult things:
(1) correcting any misconceptions we may have about God;
(2) overcoming selfishness in all its subtle forms;
(3) becoming not just admirers, but true disciples of Jesus.

What makes those things difficult is mainly that the work is never finished.  The need to do those things recurs constantly.  As long as we live we never completely and perfectly accomplish those tasks.  They may take on different forms and a different emphasis at various stages of life but the basic challenge they represent always remains.

There is a kind of subtle temptation to which we are subjected. It could be described as wishful thinking.  It consists in this: wishing that one intense effort, well defined and of brief duration would set us up spiritually so that we could then  relax.  It would be nice if we could get things settled once and for all and be spared the burden of ongoing efforts.  We long for a decisive moment that will end the struggle.

But it just doesn’t work that way.   We can be like the man who said: “I’m all for fitness.  It’s the exercise I can’t stand.”  There is no area of life in which we do not have to reaffirm or renew good decisions we have made

Another way to put that.  There is a rather simple truth that we all know but which is really hard to accept.  It is this.  What we are called to is not an isolated heroic act.  An isolated heroic act is not enough.  What we are called to is the heroism of a life lived out generously each day, living up to what we are called to do according to our state of life.

A specific challenge encountered in one’s later years is to resist becoming discouraged; to resist thinking we have somehow failed because we can’t see ourselves as having accomplished all the tasks we had hoped to do.  It helps      to remember in this regard something T.S. Eliot wrote:  “We are only undefeated because we have gone on trying.”

Walter Burghardt in his book Seasons That Laugh or Weep,  writes: “Somehow I must grasp my life as something whole.  I must see it as something which, as a whole, despite the struggles, the disappointments, the set-backs, the failures, is blessed with God’s love and grace and is valuable in his sight.  Only then can I live late adulthood, old age, without bitterness or despair; only thus can I come  to terms with my death.”  Only thus can we successfully resolve what the psychologist Ericson calls the key polarity of the late adult years: integration versus despair.

At the Second Vatican Council, when the Bishops of the world were searching for new language to describe the Church, they settled on an image reflected in the bible and in the history of the Church.  They described the Church as a pilgrim people on a journey to the Kingdom of God.  That image suggests there is no definitive encounter with God in this life.  We will never encounter God in such a way that there is nothing left to do; that no fear, no uncertainty, no hazard remains.  There are no perfect maps for the journey.  We know the goal and we know in general what we have to do to get there.  We don’t know all the twists and turns our individual journey will take.

That image of a pilgrim people seems a good way to describe our experience as Christians in today’s world. We know where we want to go but we are not always sure how to get there.  We feel less like a people in secure possession and more like a people struggling and searching.  The detailed road map we thought we had some years ago has been challenged in various ways.  It is tattered and affords much less security than it once did.  But the Lord never promised us a detailed map, only a destination and a direction, and some principles to guide us along the way.  Because God made us free we are to fill in the details ourselves.  We must shape our own path.  God is always there to give us a hand but God doesn’t lead us by the hand.  He did not promise that, unlike the life of his son, our life would be free of difficulty and suffering.

There is a kind of proverb, attributed to Peruvian Indians that expresses those ideas quite well. “Pilgrim, pilgrim, pilgrim.  There is no path.  There is no path.  You must find the way by walking, walking, walking.”