What do I smell like?

by | Dec 30, 2013 | Reflections

Vincent Eucharist

Epiphany of the Lord (A), January 5, 2014 – Is 60, 1-6; Eph 3, 2 – 3a. 5-6; Mt 2, 1-12

Come down quickly (Lk 19, 5)

It is not enough for us to know Jesus at the level of the intellect.  There ought to be a deep intimacy between the Master and us.

Herod the Great says he wants to see Jesus.  Later on, Herod Antipas will have a similar desire.  The former wants to get rid of a possible rival, murdering him thus in his heart.  The latter will reduce Jesus to a mere object of curiosity; such treatment will turn Jesus into a silent, lifeless idol.

The chief priests and the scribes are not any better.  Fore sure, they are not ignorant of Scriptures.  From there they know about the one prophesied by Micah and there they install themselves, showing no interest in knowing personally the perfect fulfiller of Scriptures.  Do they not wander far from their magisterial chairs for fear of other careerists who may wrest them away from them?

The Magi, on the hand, seek to know and adore the newborn King.  They come from afar after seeing a star rise—apparently not visible in Jerusalem, perhaps due to the glitter and glamor of the capital.  These strangers do not settle for their theoretical astrological knowledge.  They exert effort to know the Messiah in person.

We Christians, of course, prefer the Magi.  But are we really on their side?  Do we Gentiles called from far away not waste the gratuitous invitation to be “coheirs, members of the same body, copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus?”

Have Herodian megalomania, absolutism, triumphalism, duplicity not infected us in some way?  The dictator’s angry face repels, while those radiant with joy attract.  He who grasps all, centralizing power in himself, loses all.

Do we practice Vincentian simplicity, telling the truth, keeping our intentions pure and adopting an unadorned lifestyle, void of superfluous things?  I find it difficult, for example, to dispense with flowery and pedantic language.  Are we humble enough to admit we do not know everything and so need others to teach us?

Do we let Pope Francis instruct us?  Recently he canonized another companion of St. Ignatius Loyola.  It seems to me to be one more way of highlighting mysticism, intimacy with Jesus.  The Pope already told Father Spadaro:  “Ignatius is a mystic, not an ascetic.  …  An interpretation of the Spiritual Exercises that emphasizes asceticism, silence and penance is a distorted one ….  …  And Faber was a mystic.”  He contributed not a little to Ignatius’ mysticism.

We are urged, yes, to come down from our ivory tower and leave behind Pelagian mental exercises, asceticism or athleticism.  What matters, as St. Elizabeth Seton indicates, is that our Savior’s life continues in us.  What is critical is that there is intimacy between us and the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, through which wisdom, revelation, and every blessing in the heavens are now within our reach.

And we need to be intimate with the poor in the outskirts, practitioners of true religion.  To smell like Jesus is to smell like them.  To pay attention to them is to discern the Body of Christ.

Ross Reyes Dizon



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