“The most important thing about you is what you think about, when you think about God.”
This is one of my favorite quotes, and I think it’s so true! Since my faith is the most important thing in my life, I have noticed that how and what I think about God affects every aspect of my life – even the small daily things. So, we have to ask the question: Who is God?
Now, you may be thinking to yourself “How the heck is he gonna write about that, that’s literally one of the most complicated questions anyone can ask!!?”
There is some truth to that – we have to remember that “human words always fall short of the mystery of God” (CCC 42). God is unimaginable – who He is reaches infinitely beyond our understanding – He is a mystery! So what’s the point? Why even discuss this?
The fact is, that even though we can’t exhaust who God is, we can and do know some things that are true about Him because God allows us to know, and, even though it may be one of the most complicated questions ever asked, it is also the most important question ever asked, because God is who this Catholic thing is all about in the first place – who God is, “is the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (CCC 234). All the other beliefs and practices of the Catholic faith are so important, but if we don’t try to understand God, it is pointless to try and understand any of them! Without God, there is literally no such thing as religion, let alone Catholicism.
So who is He and how do we know these things?
There are two ways that we can know about who God is: reason and revelation.
“Reason” means the natural power of the human mind, and the Catechism tells us that we can come “to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God” by only using our natural thinking powers. If you want to look at natural proofs for God’s existence, check out this blog.
“Revelation” refers to God’s making Himself known to us in the Bible and the Tradition passed on by Jesus to the Apostles – revelation gives us knowledge that we cannot have by only using reason. Through reason and revelation we can know not only that God exists, but we can know some things about who He is.
1. God is Creator
The very first thing that we read about God in the Bible is that in the beginning He created the heavens and the earth. We can know that God is creator by reason alone: the book of Wisdom says: “from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (13:5). In the same chapter, the author compares knowing God to someone knowing that a craftsman exists because they have seen the woodwork. This is just common sense – if you see a chair, you know that a chair-builder exists! When we see the universe, we know that a Creator of the universe exists. St. Paul says “ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). Though the world began and will end, God is without beginning and end.
Not only did God create the universe, the world, and all of the plants and animals, but He also created each one of us. If you read Genesis 1, you will see that everything was created simply by God saying “let it be” except humans. When God created us, He paused and said “let us make man in our image and after our likeness.” The blueprint for our creation comes straight from the inner life of God! Scripture also tells us that God “knit” us together, and before He created us, He knew us (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1:5). Always remember that there was a time when you did not exist as anything but a thought in the mind of God, and He could have created anything; yet, He created you! You did not come into being randomly and by accident, but the Creator of the universe intended you to exist!
2. God is Transcendent
The fact that God created the universe means that He is transcendent, or above and beyond the world in every way; He is “infinitely greater” than all of His creation (CCC 300). For God to be transcendent means that He is also all-powerful and all-knowing – nothing escapes His knowledge or control. Genesis 1 shows how God is both the Creator and transcendent, as He creates everything simply by His word.
We have to continually remind ourselves that God is infinitely bigger than the little gods of this world that try to steal our attention. And when the problems and evil in this world seem so huge, we have to remember that our God, and His love, is so much larger.
3. God is Immanent
The fact that God created the world means that He cares about His creation and does not abandon His creatures. He not only gives us existence, but upholds and sustains us (CCC 301). He is immanent, meaning He is personally present to each of us and intimately cares about us! As Genesis 1 expresses that God is transcendent, Genesis 2 shows us that God is present to His people and walked with Adam and Eve in the garden.
As we make our way through the journey of life we can always be confident that God is constantly walking with us and is present to us on each step of the way.
4. God’s Name – He is One
The most profound way that we know that God is personal is the fact that He revealed His name to us! A person’s name reveals some of who they are – in daily life, it isn’t until we are introduced to another person that we say we “know them”; until this, we only “know of them.”
At the Burning Bush, Moses asked God His name, and He revealed it: “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). At that time, every culture surrounding the Israelites believed in multiple gods and all the gods had different names. When Moses was asking God for His name, he was wondering which of the many gods was speaking to him right then, but what God told Him revealed so much more. In saying “I AM,” God revealed that He alone is God and there are no other true gods.
In this name, God also reveals that He is being itself and that He is unchanging. No matter what change goes on in the world, or what craziness we are experiencing, God is still the same – He never changes. And when we are overcome and don’t know who is powerful enough to help us in our weakness, He says: “I AM.”
5. God is Love/Trinity
If may be confusing to think about how God could be One when we believe that, not only is the Father God, but so is Jesus and the Holy Spirit. St. John the Apostle wrote that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Knowing that God is Love helps us to understand how there is only one God while He is three Persons. If we say that we believe someone is “loving,” we don’t mean that they just sit there by themselves all full of love, that’s ridiculous! We mean that they actually love others – it has to be expressed by giving themselves to another person.
But we don’t just believe that God loves, but that He is love – a community of love! St. Augustine described the Trinity as the Lover (the Father), the Beloved (the Son), and the Love that unites them (the Holy Spirit). This means that the Trinity is a love that is so pure and intense that it manifests as three persons united as one God.
When we understand that God is Love, we understand that everything He does in our world is out of love. In fact, He “so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son” so that we might be able to share in this Love. Not only does each Person of the Trinity give themselves in love to each other, but God gives Himself in love to us!
If the idea of the Trinity is still confusing, good! It is supposed to be. He is still a mystery, and the Trinity is the “mystery of God in Himself” (CCC 234). We will never be able to fully know everything about God while on earth – as much as we know, there is so much more we don’t. But, it is still so important that we study about Him and get to know Him, because He is what this life is all about anyway.
There are many other things that theologians teach us about God and if you want to know more about who God is, I would encourage you to read the Catechism. But, realize that studying only helps us come to know about God, prayer helps us come to know God – however much you read or think about Him, make sure you take time to talk with Him.