Is God with us or not?  That’s one of our most basic human questions, especially in hard times: is God with us or are we all alone out here? It’s Israel’s constant question, as the people wandered in the desert, facing thirst and famine: is the Lord among us or not? It’s the doubt in King Ahaz’s mind as he confronted the Assyrian invasion.  So God promises him to send a king, named God with us.

We can look around at our world this year and see a lot that troubles us: conflicts in the Middle East that don’t seem to be getting any better, the economy struggles with unemployment, violence continues in our cities. So, is this God who comes to save us with us or not?

Let’s look around us. Do we see people sometimes rise above the sad temptation to selfishness and reach out to help the poor and people in need? Do we see some people trying to reconcile with one another, forgiving those who have hurt them? Do we know people who have been able to overcome sin in some area of their lives, and turn to a new way of life? Do we see families welcoming new life like Mary and Joseph did?

Let’s look inside ourselves. Do we hear a quiet voice—a gentle tug in our hearts—that guides us in life, that leads us to love other people, to give our lives in service to others, and to live life as a mission, with a purpose?  Do we feel a steady strength supporting us and helping us to do the right in difficult moments of self-doubt or temptation?

God is with us, the Spirit of the risen Jesus, saving us in each moment. It’s like the air that surrounds us, though we often don’t notice it, until suddenly we feel a gentle breeze or a gust of wind.

—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.