Being is a Verb

While Shakespeare may have written, “To be or not to be,” the first session of Bishop Barron’s latest study program, Mystery of God, uses Saint Thomas Aquinas’ theological statement to describe God, ‘ipsum esse,’ that is the essence of being.

As humans, we like to categorize things and then label that category. God does not fit neatly into one of those classifications. We also look to put our human ways of thinking and acting onto other creatures. Almost any Disney animated movie has some animal with human-like characteristics. How many times have we determined what God must be thinking and feeling about what we have done (either good or not so good actions)? But God is beyond that. He is not a being like any other to be categorized. Rather He is being itself.

Thinking in this manner is hard; it hurts the brain. It took me several times watching Bishop Barron’s lecture to realize that when he said ”God is being” he was not referring to the word ‘being’ as a noun, but rather a verb or action. Paul speaking to the Athenians says, “In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) If we as humans receive our existence from God, it seems to make sense that God is existence itself.

Bishop Barron also indicated that unlike beings who are in natural competition with each other, God is not in competition with His creation. He used the example of the burning bush in the Old Testament; the tree was still intact even though it was seen to be burning. I started thinking about this example and realized that the name God referred to Himself is,” I AM WHO AM.” (Exodus 3:14) Isn’t that the same as what Aquinas said, God is? In the Glory be, that is exactly what we proclaim: that the Glory of God in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is in the beginning, now and ever shall be.

It seems so easy to look at these simple words, and think we understand. But how can a finite creature understand the infinite? God is a mystery that we may catch fleeting glimpses of one of His many facets but will never truly completely comprehend. We can either acknowledge it and live in wonder and awe for those special moments of seeing God’s hand at work or we can shrug our shoulders and say it’s impossible to understand so I’ll just not think about and close ourselves off to seeing the beauty of God in action.  

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