What is life? The question is so huge it has innumerable answers, but the most fundamental is that life is existence, for without existence there is no life. An animate being must exist in order to have life. So, what is existence?
Whenever the word ‘existence’ comes into my mind it is accompanied by the image of Moses at the Burning Bush asking God His name. “I AM” responds God. Grammatically speaking, ‘I am’ is the first person singular of the verb ‘to be’. To be is to exist, so God is telling us that He is existence. The great philosophers and theologians, from Aristotle to Aquinas agree; God is the First Cause, the one necessary being.
It helps to keep this fact in mind: God is existence. Why? For at least two reasons; first, it helps us in prayer. When we pray we want to feel as if we are being heard, that we are speaking to someone within earshot, as opposed to someone who is in a galaxy far, far away. We want to know that the person to whom we are speaking is listening, so we practice the Presence of God. We try to imagine that God is present to us, that He is close and that He is listening to us. Oftentimes this is difficult. We feel as if God is far away and indifferent. We just can’t imagine Him being so close because our external senses tell us nothing is there.
Our Faith, however, teaches us the revealed truth that God is existence, and since we exist, then we must be participating in the life of God to some extent—at least at the level of existence. We exist because He exists in us. What could be closer to us than existence? So, when I focus on this reality I feel the Presence of God, His nearness.
Second, it helps us in our relationships with our neighbors. When we believe that God dwells in all human beings, at least at the level of existence, then we should find it easier to respect and love our neighbor. “Amen, Amen, I say to you whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” Christ tells us.(MT 25:40). If we understand that God dwells in each person, then we realize that the way we treat other people is the way we are treating God.
Existence is fundamental, and good foundations are essential for any significant project. I am reminded of the incident told by one of the great UCLA basketball players who played for the legendary coach John Wooden. On the first day of practice Wooden had all the new members of the team—the highly sought after high-school stars from around the nation—remove their basketball shoes and socks, and he then proceeded to tell them how to put them on correctly. These star recruits were incredulous that anyone would try to tell them something they thought they already knew well enough. But Wooden taught them that by putting them on with care, correctly, they could avoid getting blisters and being forced out of a game at a critical time in the fourth quarter due to foot injury. The new players learned a greater lesson than just putting on their shoes; they learned that one has to have the fundamentals firmly in place in order to play the whole game well.
Life is not a game, but like any significant event, project, or building, it has to have a good foundation in order to be lived well. Those of us who know by faith that God shares His existence with us have a solid foundation upon which we can perfect the building of our life.