An Encouraging Word — Amazement is a spiritual response

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

They were filled with amazement. Matthew 13:54

The more often we see the things around us the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take so many things for granted — from the beauty of this world to those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less. The great poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, said that “Earth’s crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes.”

As I write this, it is almost midnight. Ten inches of snow have fallen in the last few hours. The streets are unusually quiet.

Lights, up and down, seem to twinkle in approval. I look at it with so much amazement that I cannot tear myself away from it and make myself go to bed, knowing that in the light of day the same scene will seem so harsh and inconvenient.

It occurred to me that, tonight at least, looking out at it is actually an intense spiritual experience. “Oh, God, how beautiful,” seems to be the only appropriate response.

G.K. Chesterton’s words come to mind. “We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for a lack of wonders.” When I really stop to think about it, I am overcome with amazement at things as far ranging as heart surgeries, airplanes, Internet communication, strawberries in winter, sewer systems, the way our lungs work, electricity, space travel, the ability to read and write and the fact that I live in a 21st-century American city rather than a 10th-century thatched-roofed hamlet.

It all makes whining about almost anything seem so obscene!

The great thing about getting older is that you have so much to look back on. If you take the time to reflect on your life journey to where you are now, you will be amazed. I am amazed that I have not died of some awful disease or tragic accident. I have come so close sometimes that I know the odds were good. I am amazed that, after being born in a small Kentucky town at the end of the Great Depression, I have been, in so many ways, able to see the world. I am amazed that, because of the unbelievable generosity of a whole lot of people I have never met, I have had the privilege of receiving an education, unimaginable seventy years ago, for a person of my background. It truly is amazing to think about!

I am convinced that the real test of our spirituality is our ability to be amazed. Maybe one of the reasons why attendance at the Eucharist (Greek for “giving thanks”) has dropped so precipitously — we are no longer amazed enough at the wonderful people and beautiful things around us to have any gratitude triggered. Because we don’t really see these things anymore, we take them for granted, or worse, believe somehow that we deserve them or even earned them.

Father J. Ronald Knott

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