|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trance of Familiarity
We often hear ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ And it is true in so many ways. It saps our ability to be able to see the beauty of life. It allows our hearts to be lazy. It stops us from loving one another. Familiarity is insidious that is how familiarity works. The person right next to us as we read this is familiar. We often forget the boundless joy that person has put into our life. We often forget what a treasure they are to us. And when did we last say that to them? Yes, familiarity breeds contempt.
When we look at what we have as gifts to us; the beautiful blue sky surrounded by mountains; the sun shining warm upon our face; fresh water that comes from the tap. The list is endless. It ends almost always with the person who loves us in our life and this fundamentally ends up with God who loves us, sustains us and completes us.
Today’s Gospel message is probably one of the most popular Christian passages of the bible, John 3:16. We often see it on billboards, even without the words. Just John 3:16. “God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten son.” Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard it before. So what? The problem is we have lost the profundity of the words. God tries to do whatever to wake us up out of that dulling, familiarity.
It is not just our generation, it is every generation! We heard in the Old Testament over and over: God gave his gifts to his people; God’s people rejected God and his gifts; God sent prophets to remind them; they rejected the prophets; God punished the people; The people ask forgiveness; God forgives them and showers them with gifts. Then the cycle repeats itself over and over and over again. In New Testament times, we hear that God sent his Son so we will know that God truly, truly loves us. And yet, here we are 2,000 years later and the cycle has appeared again because we forget even that profound message.
Yet there is nothing that we could ever do or say that can separate us from God. Is God happy when we do stupid things and hurt other people? No, he is not happy about it. But he does not stop loving us and calling us back to himself. We need to hear that message so often. We have to find a way to not just hear it but to internalize that message and somehow have our entire lives formed by that message.
How do we snap out of our familiarity trance? We have to renew that every day in prayer. The forces against us are in our society. They are no longer aligned with a life of prayer. Therefore, we must find ourselves and pull back every day to remind ourselves of the glorious moment we live in; that God has blessed us and we must find a way to share it every day.
We need to snap out of the trance of familiarity. Maybe we can even start with the person who is sitting right next to us; tell them that we love them.