I FEEL WHAT?: A HOMILY ON FRIDAY, 33RD WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR II
Cardinal John Henry Newman said that excitement is not the ordinary state of the mind. The human mind is not created to be in a constant state of excitement. Whoever lives with a constant desire for excitement is looking for trouble. For example, when people enter into a romantic relationship, the beginning is usually full of exciting moments, but as time goes on, the excitement wears off, and then they will begin to think they no longer love each other. But what is happening is that the love is beginning to grow from an infant stage to an adult stage. They are growing from the state of being in love to the state of accepting each other for better, for worse. This is usually when one person begins to cheat on the other in search of a new excitement and moving from one exciting relationship to another will inevitabley lead to trouble.
Someone said that falling in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There is something worse than it, but there is also something better than it. Those who braai meat know that you do not braai when the flame is high. In fact, you braai when the flame is dead or at least when there is only a little flame left. In our first reading, John heard a voice asking him to eat the scroll. When he ate the scroll it tasted like honey in his mouth, but turned sour in his stomach. This may sound like bad news, but it is good news. When a person starts pursuing the spiritual life, it is always accompanied by a good feeling. But with time, the person will no longer feel that ‘spiritual high’, and then they will conclude that they are no longer growing spiritually. There are times when you pray and you feel great. As time goes on, you almost have to force yourself to pray, and even at that you feel nothing. It feels so dry and borring. That is when people often begin to feel that there is something wrong with their spiritual life. Maybe the flame is gone so that you can braai with the slow glowing coal.
There are many people who believe that the good news has to be user friendly. They believe that a priest should never get angry, no matter what happens. They believe that christianity should always feel nice. They believe the preacher should tell them what they want to hear. Yes, it will feel nice from the beginning, when you are still at the infant stage. But when real spiritual growth starts taking place, God will start challenging us. God challenges us to love Him, not because of the good feeling we are getting out of it (which has more to do with us than with God), but to love Him because we have chosen to. One argument people always give to support their divorce is to say ‘I no longer have feelings for him’. And my question is, how can you expect to feel that high over one person constantly? We are not created to operate that way.
Jesus in the Gospel today went into the temple and seeing the money changers, drove them all away. This can give the impression that Jesus is a bad person. Maybe there is one of them who had always admired Jesus and felt good about Jesus. After this experience, how will he feel about Jesus? Will he still think Jesus is the messiah? God pampers us when our relationship with him is still at the stage of infancy. But we should not expect to be on that level constantly. In fact, being on that level should be an occasional thing, rather than the normal thing. We are not meant to be in a state of depression either. Depression is the opposite extreme. Virtue is in the middle. The ordinary state of the mind is the midway between too much excitement and depression. That is the state we call sobber. Think of the things that get us excited, like drugs, alcohol, sex, money, fame. These things should never be sought for their own sake. To have an endless desire for these things is to look for trouble.
Sometimes we say we have repented of adiction to these things, but then, we start seeking that ‘high feeling’ in our prayer life. This is why in churches today, there is a constant need to go into a spiritual frenzy and to be slain in the spirit and to wave hands and screem and feel high. The probem is that we will enjoy it so much that we will become attached to how we feel, and still think we are praying to God. If God is God, we will not always feel good around Him. He will always challenge us. We will not always feel good, and this does not mean we have become less spiritual. In fact, it is a sign that we have started climbing the mountain of God. No mountain feels good to climb. I like a line in a hymn which says ‘Stand by faith, stand by faith, rest on your feelings no more’.
I am Fr. Ifeanyichukwu Henry Nwokoro, CSsR. I am your fellow child of God and this is my way of sharing my daily reflections with you. Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion or question. Let everything that lives and that breathes give praise to the Lord.
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