Pentecost Countdown Day 2: Knowledge

Onil and Perdo Castro, speaking to CNN about their kidnapper brother Ariel

Knowledge: with the gift of knowledge, we understand the meaning of God. The gift of knowledge is more than an accumulation of facts.

The brothers Castro were in the news this last week, with allegations of kidnapping, rape and torture of three young women. Ariel, Onil and Pedro were all arrested after the women  escaped the Cleveland home where they had been held captive for ten years. Soon, Onil and Pedro were released, as it became clear that only Ariel was involved. Speaking to CNN  this weekend, the two brothers disowned Ariel (in a reverse case of "He ain't heavy, he's my brother") and spoke about what they knew:
"I had nothing to do with this, and I don't know how my brother got away with it for so many years," Pedro Castro, 54, said.
They didn't know. But they are tortured with the thought that they should have known, or might have known. They didn't connect the dots. If they ever saw them.

Knowledge is usually seen in the rear view mirror, as the dots of our lives line up into recognizable patterns. But it is hard to know in the moment. When we say we know, we usually are accessing information from the past. I burned my hand on a hot stove once, so I know it'll hurt if I do it again.. I know Saturn's has rings and a bunch of moons because once, I learned it in school.  I know the Twin Towers were attacked, because I saw the replay on TV.

Meanwhile, knowledge about the present is pretty iffy. We don't even really know ourselves -- just the thin crust of egotistical personality we call "me." We don't understand where our emotions come from, whether they are twisted by experience or just twisted by a million years of primate evolution. Don't believe me? Watch how many people get passionate about a football team. And how many get passionate about global warming, or hunger in Africa. Or eating and smoking less.

The Spirit's gift of knowledge concerns knowledge of God. And not a list of factoids such as all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful and Eternal. Even if you believe these descriptions of God, you are hardly better off then no knowing. What does it really mean that God is all-good, for instance?That he is not capable of inflicting something we call evil, but that is good in his sight? Can you tell me (in terms that do not involve time) what eternity means?

The people who seems to know the existence called God don't rely on facts and figures - number of prayers answered or dangers averted. They speak in terms of a relationship. Which requires openness and trust. On long periods of silence punctuated by the sharp sting of presence. And they know what to look for. Not enormous miracles promised by too many religious leaders -- like healing a cancer or feeding a planet or raising a loved one from death. Unless you are a Moses or a Jesus (and maybe even then!) God's presence comes disguised in everyday occurrences -- a billboard with a message that seems tailor-made for a nagging problem; the fourth time in a week you hear a reference to an old book or movie; an unlikely encounter with an old acquaintance; a feeling that you should make time for a meal with a friend -- or an enemy. These can be God's invitation to reassess your priorities, to learn a new perspective, or to be his minister.

And here's the part you need to know from past experience -- that an invitation is of no value unless it is accepted. Saying yes to these divine experiences is critical. Or else, as we all know, the moment will pass with an opportunity lost. And a long time until another invitation.

Practice listening to your quiet mind, and consider its promptings. Don't talk yourself out of following an inconvenient urge. Sometimes, these are invitations to holiness.

Know what I mean?