Avoid over-fa­mil­iar­ity

The Freeman - - OPINION -

Dur­ing the prox­i­mate prepa­ra­tion for my priestly or­di­na­tion, an idea that was re­peat­edly ham­mered ‘ad nau­seam' on us, the ‘or­di­nandi,' was that we should never get ac­cus­tomed to the sa­cred things, es­pe­cially the cel­e­bra­tion of the Holy Mass. Our for­ma­tors told us that we should cel­e­brate each Mass as if it were for the first time.

That im­me­di­ately re­minded me of what the now Saint Mother Teresa once said: “Cel­e­brate this Mass as if it is your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass.” Opus Dei founder, St. Jose­maria Escriva, said some­thing sim­i­lar in so many words and showed it in the way he said each Mass. What solem­nity he gen­er­ated ev­ery time he said Mass!

Our usual prob­lem is pre­cisely that we get eas­ily over-fa­mil­iar with the sa­cred things. We tend to take for granted the many bless­ings we have. Not only do we not count our bless­ings, we of­ten com­plain that we do not have enough. We can then elicit those re­proach­ing words of Christ to his town­mates: “A prophet is not with­out honor, ex­cept in his own coun­try.”

In­stead of be­ing amazed and thank­ful for hav­ing among them not only a very spe­cial per­son but the very son of God, Christ's town­mates found him too much for them, and were in fact scan­dal­ized by him. That is why Christ re­fused to do many mir­a­cles there.

This is a very com­mon dan­ger to all of us, and is at bot­tom a re­sult of let­ting our­selves be sim­ply guided by our senses, or feel­ings and our other ways of hu­man es­ti­ma­tion, with­out the guid­ance of our faith that should lead us to de­velop the ap­pro­pri­ate piety.

We have to be more aware of this dan­ger of over fa­mil­iar­ity and in­stall the nec­es­sary de­fenses against it. More than that, we have to ag­gres­sively cul­ti­vate the art of al­ways be­ing amazed at God and at all his works. That should be the proper state for us to be in.

We have to un­der­stand, though, that this abid­ing state of amaze­ment that we should try to de­velop is sim­ply not a mat­ter of sen­sa­tions. Of course, it would be good if we can al­ways feel amazed and in awe. But given the lim­i­ta­tions of our bod­ily or­gan­ism, we can­not ex­pect that to hap­pen all the time.

The ideal abid­ing state of amaze­ment is more a mat­ter of con­vic­tion, of some­thing spir­i­tual, moral and su­per­nat­u­ral. It should be the re­sult of grace that is cor­re­sponded to gen­er­ously and hero­ically by us.

It is a state of amaze­ment that sooner or later, of course, will have some ex­ter­nal man­i­fes­ta­tions like an aura of seren­ity and con­fi­dence even in the midst of great tri­als and suf­fer­ing. It will most likely show it­self in the lilt in one's voice, op­ti­mism in his re­ac­tions to events, a smile, a warm word of praise and en­cour­age­ment to oth­ers, etc.

To be sure, God will al­ways give us this grace. The prob­lem­atic area is our cor­re­spon­dence to that grace. In this re­gard, we should try to pray and med­i­tate on God's word. Let's see to it that we get to rel­ish the spirit be­hind the word of God as pre­sented to us in the Bi­ble.

We have to be wary of our ten­dency to go through God's word in a me­chan­i­cal way. We can pro­duce the sound, we can use the word in some sen­si­ble and in­tel­li­gi­ble way, but still miss the very spirit of the word. We can still miss God and ig­nore his will, be­cause our heart is still not in God's word.

Be­sides, we need to de­velop a deep­en­ing sense of to­tal de­pen­dence on God. Let's see to it that our ta­lents, fac­ul­ties and pow­ers, our achieve­ments do not blunt, but rather sharpen this sense of de­pen­dence.

'Our usual prob­lem is pre­cisely that we get eas­ily

over-fa­mil­iar with the sa­cred things. We tend to take for granted the many

bless­ings we have.'

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