Our senses and our faith

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A common “complaint” God makes of us, if we may call it that way, is that we do not use our senses — our sense of sight, hearing, smell, touch, etc. — to perceive what is really most important for us to perceive.

This “complaint” is expressed, for example, in the Book of Jeremiah where our Lord said, “Declare this in the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah: Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do no see, who have ears but do not hear.” (5,21)

The same “complaint” is echoed in the gospel of St. Mark as well as in the other gospels: “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?” Christ asks the people. (Mk 8,18; cfr. Mt 13,13; Jn 12,40)

The problem, of course, is that the senses are not united or inspired by faith. They are just left on their own, ruled mainly by instincts and other biological factors. Or at best they may be guided only by an intelligence that is not yet enlightened by faith.

And things can become so bad that these senses can get quite hostile to anything related to faith that definitely involves spiritual and supernatural realities. That is why Christ said at one time: “In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has grown callous; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have close their eyes.” (Mt 13,14-15)

We need to realize that the first, last and constant object that our senses should perceive is God since he is the origin of everything, the maintainer of the existence of all things. He is everywhere.

As St. Augustine once said: “To find where God is may be difficult, but to find where he is not, that is even more difficult.” And to be sure, God’s presence in everything is not something cold and indifferent. It is full of love and solicitude.

We need to train our senses to be guided by our Christian faith, hope and charity, so we can capture this very consoling reality. They should not just be left on their own, guided and ruled only by factors other than our faith, hope and charity. That state of affairs would lead us nowhere other than trouble.

That is why there are so many problems around—conflicts, wars, controversies, jealousies, hatred, etc. It’s because God is ignored in our life and in our dealings. We practically avoid the grace he is willing to give us abundantly. We ignore his teachings and ways of how to handle the different situations in our life, including the difficulties and the problems that we encounter unavoidably in life.

In other words, we resist his constant help. We prefer to be on our own, relying simply on our own devices. We really need to wake up from this self-inflicted predicament and have a general over-haul of our beliefs, attitudes and skills.

We have to activate our faith to such an extent that whatever we see or hear or smell or feel, we always perceive God and his will and ways. We have to learn the discipline of contemplation, of recollection even while we immerse ourselves in the rough and tumble of our daily human affairs.

Obviously, this discipline will have a number of requirements. We have to be very familiar with the teachings and the example of Christ who is the fullness of God’s revelation to us. We have to see to it that these teachings and example of Christ become the main impulse-giver of our senses.

To be able to perceive God always even from the level of our senses is never an undermining of our humanity. It in fact purifies our humanity and puts it in its ideal state!*


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October 2020