Application of the Senses


16 November 2007. Friday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 13, 1-9; Psalm 19; Luke 17, 26-37

The readings today tells us about how God reveals himself to us. The Gospel tells us about the second coming of the Lord, which could be interpreted as the final judgment of all humankind, our personal death, or our experiences of God in our daily lives. I would take the latter for our reflections today: that we experience God’s visits in our every day life. And it comes suddenly and without warning. The Gospel tells us that during the time of Noah, the people were eating and drinking when the flood came; or in the time of Lot, the people were also eating, drinking, selling, planting and building. In other words, God rushes to our ordinary lives unprecedented and all of a sudden.

Many of us are familiar with some of these experiences. We find ourselves in awe when we see a spectacular scenery, and we wonder about its architect. We find ourselves suddenly dependent on a divine power when there is nothing more to hold on to like a few months before the bar exams, in terminal illness or in the brink of death. We wonder when we suddenly gain insight that comes from nowhere and experienced in the most unusual places like the bathroom. Or, when we are suddenly forgiven after committing a grave mistake.

The first reading says that the wise can discern the handiwork of God in his creation. Psalm 19 affirms that the ‘heavens proclaim the glory of God’ and the ‘firmament proclaims his handiwork.’ In 1954, Albert Einstein said “If something is in me which can be called religious, then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” Or witness our physical bodies as National Geographic or Discovery Channel present it; who can not wonder about its structure --- it cannot possibly be made by accident.

The point for today therefore is simple: we can experience God quite clearly and sensually in the ordinary. And in order to be conscious of these divine visits, we have to train our senses to detect the most subtle divine arrival. St. Ignatius advises those on retreat to feel God as they contemplate, for example, the Passion of Christ. They are not just to meditate on Passion, but to BE in it --- feel it, taste it, smell it, see it, hear it. This is called, the Application of the Senses. Usually, we tend to be na├»ve and insensitive. How many times did we eat rice, but never really ‘tasted it?’ We just shove food into our mouths, never chewing and relishing it. How many times did we actually notice our mothers getting old, when our eyes become oblivious to these changes because we see them everyday? Our noses adapt to smell, so we become insensitive to odors that have always been present. Case in point: we do not smell our own body scent.

When we are able to train our senses sensitively, it is then possible to discern God in our ordinary and everyday life.

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