By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 1, 2016
“Where is God?” was an early catechism question for me when I was attending Catholic elementary school. The correct answer, which I quickly learned, was that he was everywhere—but the reality didn’t sink in until decades later.
True, I believed God was in the Communion host that the priest gently placed on my tongue—and he was, of course, in my heart. But when it came to the natural world, I didn’t quite connect the dots because I was mostly an indoors kid.
Forget about camping and other such mosquito-laden, sweaty activities—I preferred being hunkered down in my room with a stack of books.
When I got married, however, I closed the books long enough to venture into the great outdoors with my husband, who took us boating in Florida.
Yes, we perspired heavily and swatted the occasional mosquito—but it was worth it because we encountered so many of God’s creatures, such as porpoises, otters and even manatees.
Little by little, as I grew more attuned to the natural world, I began marveling at God’s glorious handiwork, even in the city. These days, I love to grab an early morning cup of coffee, sit by an open window and watch the world awakening.
The psalmist’s words come back to me as sunlight gradually floods in: “How great are your works, O Lord, in wisdom you have wrought them all.”
Soon the choir in the yard tunes up—sparrows, robins and cardinals praising God in their own unique way. “The birds of the sky … from among the rocks they will raise their song,” writes the psalmist.
A flash of brown with black stripes darts through the undergrowth, and I realize it’s a chipmunk, newly emerged from his wintry burrow. “To the deer belong high mountains, to rodents the shelter of the rocks.”
I add blueberries to my oatmeal, reflecting that everything we eat and drink comes from the hand of God: “You make green pastures for the cattle and food plants for the service of man/So that bread may be brought forth from the earth and wine that gladdens the heart …”
Later that day at Mass, I listen carefully to words that miraculously connect earth to heaven: “Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, fruit of the earth and work of human hands.” And: “We have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine …”
In the mysterious workings of nature, seeds sprout into wheat, and grapes fatten on the vine. Through the mystical presence of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine become our spiritual food and drink.
That night, as I close the shades, I glimpse a glowing globe floating in a dark sky. “You have made the moon to mark the seasons … You establish darkness and it is night wherein the forest creatures prowl around.”
I turn off the light and get into bed, and then an owl calls tentatively from the nearby creek, reminding me that night prayer has begun.
Before drifting to sleep, I imagine myself as a child again in catechism class, and when Sister asks me where God is, I answer, “everywhere”—but this time, I really get it.
Artwork by Jef Murray (“Communion”). You may email Lorraine Murray at email@example.com.