Engage your imagination in God’s word

By Linda Zahorik | For The Compass | December 1, 2016

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

The Scripture readings this weekend can delight our imagination. We will hear of a dozen creatures, born to be natural enemies, who on the day of the Lord, come together in communal harmony. In the Gospel, you can imagine John the Baptist, not only dressed in his unusual attire, but preaching fire and brimstone that should make our skin tingle.

We will have many thoughts to take home this weekend. As is often the case when we hear Scriptures so rich in imagery, they are the ones we remember. Our minds are able to comprehend the ideas the Scriptures present but it is our imaginations that allow God’s word to saturate our hearts and souls.

If reason changes our minds, the imagination changes our hearts. We begin to feel the truth, not just know it. Think how easy it is to call back to your memory an image of John the Baptist, dressed in animal skins, hair flying wildly as he munches on a locust. Or Jesus taking ground and mixing it with his spittle to form a paste he rubbed on the blind man’s eyelids. Through imagination, we can put ourselves into the reality of that moment.

St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged people to use their imaginations when listening to or reading the Scriptures. In his “Spiritual Exercises,” we are taught not only to listen, but to see, to feel, to smell, to taste and to touch.

As you listen to the Scriptures this week, visualize the animals mentioned. See yourself roaming among them, able to touch each one, as you, too, become part of the communal harmony.

Look upon John the Baptist, feel the itchy clothing he is wearing, absorb the power of his angry, booming voice and, if you dare, draw near and smell the odor of someone who lives in the dessert and has been without a bath for a long time. How do you see yourself reacting to him? Will you move away from him and his message as quickly as you can or will you draw near, intrigued at being baptized?

Each time we hear the Scriptures proclaimed, we are given the opportunity to know Jesus as more than a name or a historical figure in a book. Let us make an effort to engage our imaginations in the Scriptures as well, that it may reach into places that the intellect does not touch.

As this season of Advent moves on, let us bring Jesus into our hearts. May his story engage our feelings, and may we be moved toward the peace and generosity that is Christmas.

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.

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