Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Sense of the Sacred

In today's Korea it is said that living a life that is happy and rewarding is more of a concern than living a life without enough to eat. We all are seeking a life of happiness. Past generations often saw their situation in life, good or bad, as their lot in life, their destiny, and abandoned themselves to this thinking. This is not the case today. Most Koreans lived through the Japanese occupation, the horrors of war, famine, poverty, and the loss of human rights. Today they give thanks for the freedom they enjoy.

A priest-professor at the Incheon seminary, in  an article for the Kyeongyang magazine, discusses what we have left behind and what we are now facing. The poverty of the past has, for the most part, disappeared but the social evils still with us, he says, are poisoning all of us; a case perhaps of the 'selfish gene' becoming prominent in our society, he suggests. Fortunately, there has been an awakening to the dangers of such selfishness, as we become more aware that we are intimately related to our natural environment.  The problems are many: the breakup of families, contempt for life, confusion of moral values, and the destruction of our environment, which has forced us, he says, to acknowledge and face our common existence. A sign of the times, he points out, is our search for more efficient ways to narrow the gap between our ideals and the harsh reality, in the hope that our concerted efforts will help save our environment.  Where does our faith enter in? he asks.

He begins by making a distinction between a faith life that is of the senses, and  one that  has a sense for the sacred. The former is attracted to the externals: a beautiful church, the quiet, the liturgical practices, and the like. He believes this kind of attraction tends to level off. When one searches only for what they like, there is a danger of being an opportunist. Often when the Church does not show an interest in a person's concerns, the person leaves and becomes involved in his or her own spiritual pursuits.   

This is not what a true spiritual life is all about, he says. Our senses, which can't see or describe God, have to be purified to have a sense for the sacred, so we can meet and feel God's presence. When we realize that our physical senses are being manipulated by the mass media, we have to be on our guard, be able to discern, and have the courage to say no to its enticements.

We often think we are able to determine what is good for us, but the  facts may be quit different. We are often addicted or brain-washed by our society. And even if we know this is happening we often do not have the mental strength to prevent it. We can face life in desperation, and try to deceive ourselves but the selfish gene continues to expand  its influence, he says. The mass media is so influenced by money and consumerism that we also unconsciously follow along, mesmerized by it and losing our connection to the scared.

In this year of Faith we want our sense of the sacred to grow. The apostles, in Luke 17:5,  ask our Lord: "Increase our faith."  Jesus answered that if they had the faith the size of a mustard seed, they would be able to do extraordinary things, our senses being made complete by our life of faith. To have a sense of the sacred, the priest advises us to kneel  before God  and confess that we have lost the way. It will take time, he says, just as it does to get a feel for a sport, art or music. He asks us to reflect on whether our religious life is mostly of the senses or whether our senses are being influenced by the sacred.

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