Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 479

Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

Saint Paul describes Jesus as “a fragrant aroma.”
Sometimes you can enter a room and be there quite a while before you notice a certain aroma in the room. In fact you might have visited the room several times before you noticed it. The smell might be pleasant or unpleasant.
Whether you notice it or not, it has its effect. Smells are associated with the limbic system of the brain, sometimes called the “lizard brain.” It’s real basic stuff where feelings and fears and pleasures and ancient memories are stored.
I live at Mount Saint Francis; it was formerly a seminary, closed in 1975. Every room in the compound of buildings has been repurposed since 1975. But a few years ago I stepped into a hallway which has seen little change; I was struck by a scent that took me back fifty years. I have no idea what caused that odor, nor have I noticed it again since then. But there it was. Neither pleasant nor unpleasant, it was powerfully evocative of – what? I am not sure. A seminary experience among a herd of teenage boys, with adult friars, rules, studies, regimented prayer, a rigid schedule, plots and conspiracies, eagerness and fear, rampaging testosterone, a long time ago.
I suppose we’ve all had similar experiences; they enrich an already fascinating experience of life.
Religion has always employed smells to evoke prayer, especially the aromas of incense. Although the economies of the ancient mid-east were mostly local, producing their own food and immediate necessities, certain luxuries items like incense were traded internationally. Camels, asses and galley ships were laden with perfumes, fine cloth, jewelry and incense. (“Gold, frankincense, and myrrh!”) Because the aromatic smoke was precious it was offered sacrificially to God even as the worshippers enjoyed it.
Saint Paul urged his disciples “as beloved children” to be a fragrant aroma to God and to one another. Every person brings a different presence into the company of others; each is unique and no one is replaceable. We might not notice some people until we miss their presence; they were subtle but nonetheless real. The more pleasant persons are like a fragrant aroma.
Some people come on like gangbusters. I suspect Saint Paul did not. He responded to one complaint that his letters were stronger than his presence, and he threatened that on his return he would certainly correct that misimpression!
He seemed to prefer that person who is like a fragrant aroma, whose presence is powerful but subtle, who allows people to be themselves and yet find comfort, direction, reassurance and instruction in their presence. His kind of people are not an overpowering stench but a subtle reassurance. They say you are welcome here; you are safe; you are honored and respected. You may speak your peace here.
Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving….
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.