Finding God in Unexpected Ways

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Start your meeting with the Sign of the Cross and prayer
Someone read: A reading from Wisdom 13: 5

Anyone who does not know God is simply foolish. Such people look at the good things around them and still fail to see the living God. They have studied the things he made, but they have not recognized the one who made them. 2 Instead, they suppose that the gods who rule the world are fire or wind or storm or the circling stars or rushing water or the heavenly bodies.3 People were so delighted with the beauty of these things that they thought they must be gods, but they should have realized that these things have a master and that he is much greater than all of them, for he is the creator of beauty, and he created them. 4 Since people are amazed at the power of these things, and how they behave, they ought to learn from them that their maker is far more powerful. 5 When we realize how vast and beautiful the creation is, we are learning about the Creator by analogy at the same time.

Listen to the cd or read the script :
Song words by Kevin Bates on the album Listen for the Word

For a Kiwi traveller the exotic sights and sounds of a city like Bangkok assail the senses and linger in the memory. I was in Bangkok in the 1980's and one of the quickest things I noticed
last August was that the smell was familiar. Somehow even if I were blindfold I would have sensed I was in Bangkok. My little grandson is tuned in to this level of the senses. When he gave me a hug last week he said, "Oh Nanny you smell so good." Smells and sounds can lay down powerful memories beyond words.

I read a reflection by Marist priest Fr Pascal Boidin on using the senses to become more aware of God's presence. He said "London has been for me a city of odours: the sweet smell of Chinese food from restaurants in China Town, the strong body odour of the homeless who come to the soup kitchen, the smell of pubs, the scent of beer and alcohol, the smell of chocolate in front of the M&M store in Leicester Square, the smell of burning candles in the church, the smell of roses last summer in the parks … All scents blend to create an indefinable atmosphere, a stuffy one…" Then he remembered a Franciscan inviting him to distinguish the smells and to seek to recognize them.
He tried it and this is what he discovered. In his words: "The homeless' smell reminded me of the smiles at the soup kitchen when they receive a hot meal. It reminded me of the volunteers' warm welcome, their faith in humanity. The smell of roses reminded me of the beauty of London's parks in and their countless walkers. The smell of Chinese cuisine evokes the smiles of awestruck children before the dragon visiting their homes, dancing on the occasion of the Feast of the Moon. The smell of M&M's reminded me that we live in a world where consumerism has gone mad, where money seems to dominate everything. The smell of pubs reminded me of friendship shared over a drink but also of the loneliness and isolation of so many people in our cities. The smell of candles is a sign that at the heart of the city, men and women still take moments to pray. All these odours evoked a common humanity and I better understand what Pope Francis meant …" when he suggested that ministers must learn to smell like the sheep.

Anyway, I tried it with my smells of Bangkok. I noticed the smell of the massive drainage system, the odour both fresh and yet heavy, that lingers when it rains. The humid, hot air has a particular smell and heaviness. The Metro has the smell of many people, while the sparkling Malls smell crisp, almost clinical and cool from sanitised air-conditioning; as though money and consumerism has a particular odour. Delicious and sometimes foreign smells come from the street vendors cooking in the open air. As I walked past tiny local shops and homes the smells floated out hinting at the activities inside. Hotel lobbies have a particular odour and so do airports.

In the Encyclical Laudato Si which came out in August 2015, Pope Francis says "The entire material universe speaks of God's love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places which take on an intensely personal meaning; we all remember places, and revisiting those memories does us much good. Anyone who has grown up in the hills or used to sit by the spring to drink, or played outdoors in the neighbourhood square; going back to these places is a chance to recover something of our true selves." LS 84

He adds, 'The bishops of Japan… made a thought-provok¬ing observation: "To sense each creature sing¬ing the hymn of its existence, is to live joyfully in God's love and hope". This contemplation of creation allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us, since "for the believer, to contemplate creation is to hear a message, to listen to a paradoxical and silent voice".' LS85

So I tried it with my Bangkok smells and discovered that the drainage smells helped me reflect on the gift of clean running water and clean streets. It helped me ponder the marvel of God who sweeps away our sins and all that lingers from them, renewing us totally in his mercy and love. It helped me feel grateful for technology and innovative 'people friendly' solutions to complex urban problems. The hot humid air and rain reminded me of how many people live in poverty with no heating or cooling available and how much I take for granted the gift of these normal things.
The Metro smell and its busyness helped me reflect on the enormity of God's mercy open for everyone and how easily we make it only for the type of people we relate to and feel comfortable with. The sparkling sanitised Malls helped me think about how we only like to show the 'nice' side of ourselves. That we so easily hide the reality of our lives and so avoid real encounters with the real issues amongst our family and neighbourhoods and also that our secular consumerism wants to numb and distract us with comfort and self-interest so we ignore what is going on outside.
Delicious and sometimes foreign smells took me to the extraordinary diversity of our world and the joy of children; the universal nature of food, family, a smile and welcoming hospitality. Love and mercy need reality and truth if we are to have any hope of really encountering the other person or the stunningly extravagant and unfathomable love, mercy and creativity of God. These were just some things that came to me.

So now I invite you to try the exercise for yourself in the coming days and weeks. If smells are not your thing, you could also do it with noises, sounds of your street, home, neighbourhood or city.
Be open and notice with your senses all the things around you. Be attentive and then talk to God about what you smell, see or hear and open a new conversation with the One who loves you extravagantly every breath of every day.

Here are some simple ways to remember God in the ordinary: Discuss them and share any thoughts you have on this topic.

A) Spend a few minutes praying or reading His word in the morning,so you're more apt to remember Him later.

B) During a busy day, stop and say,"I love you,God" and thank Him for His gifts, like the miracle of a flower in your front yard.

C) Worried? Turn each anxious thought into a prayer. Upset? Tell God all about it just like you would talk to your best friend.

D) As you clean house or cook meals, pray that your work will bless your family.

E) Instead of blowing up, pray for your kids when they start fighting and say a silent prayer for your spouse when he or she leaves in the morning.

F) Ask God for help before you start each task. Lift up your work to Him as you do it and thank Him for grace as you complete each job or activity.

G) Say a simple goodnight as you go to bed and good morning as you get up. Slow down and enjoy God. Breathe in and smile. Remember you are dearly loved.

No.6 From our Charter
– for your reflection this month

The family is the basic unit of society and the Christian home is the 'domestic church'.

"The Christian family can and should be called the 'domestic church'." Pope John Paul II

Prayer Time: For your own intentions and other needs.
Conclude the meeting with the Closing prayer

Radiant God, every day I want to open the treasure chest of my life.

In there, I find unending gifts of every kind to offer you.

Every day I am seeking, I too am longing.
I go among my busy days yearning for the Unknown One.

Holy One, reveal your presence.
Every day I bring gratitude for you and my desire to grow more loving, my longing to be true.

Open the eyes of my heart. Awaken my unattuned spirit;
bring me to full attention,
so that I come to know, in every moment,
your radiant guidance.