Amanda Woodiel ponders the confusing, comforting truth that Jesus is with us whether or not we sense it.
I’ve been musing recently over the relationship between our senses and faith -- this because, well, I can’t taste or smell at the moment. I have to take a lot of things on faith. Sometimes I depend on a different sense (hearing, for example, when I am popping corn on the stove). Sometimes I depend on prior experience (knowing that inhaling the steam off of my mug of peppermint tea will clear up congestion). Sometimes I depend on what other people tell me (dinner tastes yummy). In any event, it’s disorienting.
The life of faith is a lot like this, isn’t it? Sometimes we feel God’s presence keenly. Many times, though, His presence is veiled. What do we do? Give up? No! We know that truth is true whether or not we sense it. In these moments, we depend on our past experience or other people to guide us. So we step forward in faith. We keep praying because we know He is always with us. We keep reading our Bible because we know that God’s Word is powerful whether or not we sense it.
Our senses are deceived regularly in the Eucharist. What we smell and what we taste are the matter of everyday life. What we consume, though, is God Himself, who evades our taste and smell. “Seeing, touching, tasting, are in thee deceived,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas in Adoro Te Devote. We can’t taste Him exactly, but we know that we receive Christ Himself: body, blood, soul, and divinity.
We can apply this kind of certainty of faith to this Christmas when baby Jesus is born into our hearts and homes anew. We might not sense it. We might feel disoriented because the other markers for our Christmas celebrations are different. It might feel as though nothing happened. It might seem like another deficit to tack onto the long list of 2020 casualties. We might even feel unworthy and be tempted to think that Jesus wouldn’t come to a heart so inelegant, so tied down to the matters of earth.
Here we must rely on our past experience and on the authority of others. Jesus will be born into our hearts and homes. He may come quietly, as he did that day many years ago -- not with the pomp and circumstance belonging to the greatest King -- but with the unassuming humility of a baby. He may slip into our hearts under the cover of night, but He will come. And just as He once deigned to be born in a cave full of animal smells and matter, He will not spurn any heart that is open to Him, no matter how poor in spirit. Only have faith!
Copyright 2020 Amanda Woodiel
Image: Pixabay (2020)
About the Author
Amanda Woodiel is a Catholic convert, a mother to five children ages 11 to 3, a slipshod housekeeper, an enamored wife, and a “good enough” homeschooler who believes that the circumstances of her life -- both good and bad -- are pregnant with grace. She leads a moms' group at her parish that focuses on simple and meaningful ways to live the liturgical year at home. Amanda blogs at In a Place of Grace.