Beware of the problem of over-familiarity

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

“AMEN, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” (Lk 4,24) With these words, Christ is telling us to be wary of our usual tendency to take the very important things related to God, our faith, our spiritual life, for granted. Especially these days when we are bombarded with a lot of distractions, we need to be doubly guarded to avoid falling into this anomaly of over-familiarity.

That’s when we can give an appearance of piety when there is hardly anything in it, because we may just be going through the motions of praying and availing of the sacraments, and still we fail to be in touch with God and to show that fact with our deeds.

Over-familiarity is a common and usual danger to all of us. It is due to the limitations of our human condition that can lead us to take many things, even the important ones, for granted.

Instead of seeing God in everything and be amazed and excited about it, we only see the externals and go through some routine that usually has the bad trait of deadening our sensibilities, if not our faith, then our hope and charity.

We need to see to it that no matter how we are physically, emotionally or otherwise, we have to be spiritually and morally amazed at God in all situations of our life. This is always possible, though it may require some effort, even heroic, extraordinary effort sometimes.

It would be good if we develop the attitude of simply having to begin and begin again in our spiritual life, not allowing whatever difficulty and challenge we have to tackle to dominate us. Neither falling into anger, bitterness, self-pity and sadness, nor just drifting into familiarity, complacency and routine could properly handle those difficulties and challenges.

What we need to do is to continue, without let up, having to begin and begin again. This is a practical law of life that we should apply in our daily affairs. Let’s not get too sentimental and wait for some strong inspiration before we move. With a simple act of the will, let’s just do it—that of having to begin and begin again.

We have to be more aware of this danger of over-familiarity and install the necessary defenses against it. More than that, we have to aggressively cultivate the art of always being amazed at God and at all his works. That should be the proper state for us to be in.

We have to understand, though, that this abiding state of amazement that we should try to develop is simply not a matter of sensations. Of course, it would be good if we can always feel amazed and in awe. But given the limitations of our bodily organism, we cannot expect that to happen all the time.

The ideal abiding state of amazement is more a matter of conviction, of something spiritual, moral and supernatural. It should be the result of grace that is corresponded to generously and heroically by us.

It is a state of amazement that sooner or later, of course, will have some external manifestations like an aura of serenity and confidence even in the midst of great trials and suffering. It will most likely show itself in the lilt in one’s voice, optimism in his reactions to events, a smile, a warm word of praise and encouragement to others, etc.