Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
How does the soul “taste” things?
We know what physical hunger is, and the taste of food that satisfies our body.
We know intellectual hunger, as well, when we have an unanswered question. We know the “taste” of a good answer that satisfies the mind.
We know emotional hunger, too, when we long for love. And we know the “taste” of genuine affection that satisfies the heart.
Each of those kinds of hunger — physical, intellectual and emotional — has its corresponding kind of taste: a taste of the body, of the mind and of the heart.
But what does it mean for the soul to hunger? And what would it mean for the soul to “taste” something that satisfies its hunger? The tasting of the soul is harder to name. But for that very reason, it’s all the more important for us to consider.
St. Paul points us in a helpful direction at the beginning of the Second Letter to the Corinthians when he says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction …” Ten times, in the span of five verses, he speaks of the “encouragement” of God (sometimes also translated as the “consolation” of God). The Greek word he uses is “paraklesis.” It indicates the action of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit! That “encouragement” or “consolation” that we can taste even in the midst of affliction — that’s a “tasting” of the soul.
Think of the joy and even awe that strikes us when we behold something beautiful. Think of the admiration that strikes us when we see a noble or merciful action. Think of the healthy shame that strikes our conscience when we’ve done something deeply wrong, or the sorrow that strikes us when we see profound injustice. These are just a few examples of a deeper kind of tasting that we experience — a tasting at the level of the soul.
Why does any of that matter? Because the celebrations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 11) and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (June 12) this week invite and challenge us to dwell more often and more readily at the level of the soul’s tasting. We’re invited to dwell there more often and more readily so that we can receive the love of Jesus in the deepest possible way. And we’re challenged to dwell there more often and more readily because the world needs us to share the love of Jesus from the deepest possible place.
We are, so often, distracted. Our attention is captivated by things at the surface, even if they’re good things. That’s not really new. It’s a perennial spiritual tendency of fallen humanity. It’s also a skillful strategy of temptation that keeps us from going deeper.
But the invitation and the challenge of Christian life is precisely that: to go deeper, to receive the love of Jesus as deeply as we can, so that we may share the love of Jesus as deeply as the world needs. Let’s accept the invitation, and take up the challenge.