Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Alex Brown is one of several contributing writers to Young Adult Angle, a new section of The Georgia Bulletin.

A reasonable relationship

By ALEXANDER BROWN, Special to the Bulletin | Published March 31, 2022

When I was little, I had a passing interest in coin collecting. It wasn’t one of my major hobbies, but it always fascinated me—the value of a little piece of metal. If shaped in a certain way at a certain time, it could be worth a completely different value than the same size amount of metal in a slightly different way a few years later.  

Perhaps seeing something that goes unnoticed or uncared for, hiding in plain sight, can be seen with the right eyes to reveal a real treasure. This reminded me of other mysteries I experienced. This holds true for the spiritual life, the other half of the realm of our existence often ignored against the physical busyness and hustle of our modern lives. However, if we take a moment and look with a fresh perspective, we may see the other side of a great mystery we are all experiencing. 

The spiritual life, for clarification, deals with the state of our soul, the animating principle of our body. We all have an intuition that we each have a soul which longs for justice, peace, love and unity—even if we can’t give such a formal definition of it. From where did the soul originate? It was entrusted to us from God, the un-created creator. Maybe we do or don’t need detailed philosophical proof, but instead can lean on intuition that there is a higher power or someone who created all that we see.  

We can, however, know by reason alone that God exists (that is, it does not need to only rely on faith). This is what many philosophers and thinkers have thought for much of human history, and the Catholic Church’s teachings directly support this (using “natural reason … on the basis of his works” (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 50).  

Too often however, the “concept of God” is offered like a product—have you given God a try? Maybe Christianity is what is missing in your life. Free samples of the new and improved Catholicism! When instead these discussions and understandings are integral to our very nature and being—how we were made and where we are eternally destined. 

A pivotal moment in my life occurred when I learned I could have a relationship with God. We all have many relationships—reoccurring, meaningful experiences—with the good. For example, we develop passions for topics like music, sports, good food and cooking, reading, poetry and entertainment. And we long for something better in it and more from it. We spend our time on it, and our devotion to it grows. These are not fleeting interests though they may change or shift. But we recognize that within them there are measures of good either by personal taste or a reasonable measure. We may each like this spice or that and we can all agree when too much salt has been dumped on the dish. These are all part of, or come from, a perfect good to which they all point.  

The catechism puts it beautifully in paragraph 41: 

“All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures—their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently, we can name God by taking his creatures’ perfections as our starting point, ‘for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.’” 

If we realize these interests are finite things, no matter how “priceless” a coin or other valuable is, we should see that they themselves will never fulfill us. Even when these things turn out nearly perfectly, we recognize that none of them can satisfy all of our needs. This is where a recognition of God as the perfect good will open up a new treasure to our experience of reality.  

God, as the un-created creator who places and holds all in existence, desires our good. Integral to that good is our relationship with him. Some have used the image of the artist and the art, and Scripture uses the lover and the beloved. In the New Testament, we hear of the relationship of Father to us as children (Mt 6). Comparing this to our inevitably imperfect relationships, God, the perfect member of this relationship, desires us imperfect creatures to know and grow in relationship with his perfection. One distinct aspect of this truth (though at times challenging, confusing, joyous, and certainly mysterious) is that the relationship is destined to grow eternally.  

This was a pivotal change in my own life—moving from times of “spiritual” but not purposefully “religious” or religious but not contemplatively spiritual, into a fuller sense of the mystery of a living, growing, personal relationship with God. 

In my next reflection, I will continue with the implications of this relationship and how it affects our daily lives. Until then, I invite you to explore any unanswered questions you may have about the existence of God. What can we know about who God is and what it means to be in relationship with him as one of his children? For if we see the beauty and value in this often-ignored coin, a limitless wealth of goodness awaits us.