SERVING WITH THE ANGELS
“Familiarity breeds contempt”. The maxim brings out a truth at the extreme end of an arc of human experience, relating most often to inordinate familiarity with figures of authority. Moving back along that arc into more moderate territory, we come upon the phrase “taken for granted”. In this case, the contributions, co-operation and even the very presence of a person are so much assumed that their merit and value seem forgotten.
Somewhere between the two is a position in which our experience of the Faith can sometimes be found. It can come to be one part of our very busy life - sure, a very important part - but kept in the allotted place and not allowed to disturb the other parts as we hurry along from one preoccupation to another. Set in its place, its “fire” can be dimmed, even reduced to mere” embers”.
In this situation, there is little chance that we will deepen our realisation of the wonderful fact that God loves us so much that He burst into Time from Eternity to bring us His Only Begotten Son at the Annunciation. That Divine Son - the Word made Flesh - came to Earth to save us from our sins by His death on the Cross. Then, by His Resurrection, He led the way for us to follow Him. He left us the means to do so by founding His Church and endowing her with the seven Sacraments sharing with us His Life of Grace.
It seems incredible that we could sometimes become so familiar with these extraordinary realities, that in our human weakness, and distracted by our worldly concerns, we could even come to “take them for granted”. This could create a dangerous state of affairs when, ever so subtly as is his wont, the Devil comes a’ knocking.
We are better prepared to counter any such tendency when we follow a regular and systematic course of reading and reflection. The daily readings from the Liturgy of the Hours, the systematic reading of Sacred Scripture especially the New Testament or some major spiritual work are useful examples. The reader finds inevitably that they are major channels of God’s Grace and of special insight. Acolyte well remembers re-reading some years ago “The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ” by Archbishop Alban Goodier S.J. The words “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me for I Am meek and humble of heart” which were all too familiar to me, struck me heavily, and it was as if I had been looking Him straight in the eyes - yes he meant this message for me and for each one of us. God directly communicating to you and me a fundamental truth about Himself and bidding us to learn from Him.” Awesome! “as the youth of to-day too frequently say. All of His original listeners were familiar with the procedure of yoking the more experienced and reliable ox to the younger less experienced to train it. From that experience, I have acquired a heightened attention to any similar direct addresses from Our Lord in Sacred Scripture.
We need to open ourselves such possibilities, regularly refreshing our appreciation of our part in “God’s project for the salvation of mankind”. God made Man - Jesus Christ - is talking to us in Sacred Scripture, and His attention is never distracted from any one of us. He cares enough to have suffered and died for our salvation. Do we really give Him our best in attention, reflection, prayer and practice?
This item first appeared in FOUNDATION in the MAY 2009 issue.