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 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.
Fr. Roy Cimagala is the Chaplain of the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise, Talamban, Cebu City (email@example.com)/WDJ