Hello. This is Father Edwin Keel. I am a Marist priest and the Promoter for Marist Laity. This is
the fourth in our series of talks on Marist spirituality.
We have been talking about joy, joy as a key characteristic of Marist life, because joy was so central
a reality in Mary’s life. But how, we might ask, do we find or connect with the joy in our own lives?
Fr. Jean-Claude Colin, founder of the Marists, spoke of “tasting God.” This phrase derives from
Psalm 34, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Here the word “taste” is being used as a metaphor
for experience. Fr. Colin is saying we should make ourselves available to God so that we can
experience God’s presence in our lives. Of all the senses, taste is the most physical, the most
concrete. There is nothing theoretical or abstract about taste. Fr. Colin is not asking us to think
about God. He is inviting us to open ourselves to God’s presence. When we are eating or drinking
something we like, we will often savor it. We will concentrate our attention on the taste of what we
are eating. Even when the taste of the food is no longer present, we savor it in our memory. So Fr.
Colin is urging us to savor God’s presence in our lives, to concentrate our attention on God, and to
enjoy the remembrance of God’s goodness to us.
Taste is also a sense that can be developed or educated. We speak of developing a taste for certain
foods, or for fine wines. So when the psalmist and Fr. Colin speak of “tasting God,” perhaps they
are encouraging us to develop an affinity and a liking for God and the things of God. But we must
realize that if we wish to enter into an experience of God in our lives, we are entering a realm of
mystery. God is not just another acquaintance like the neighbor down the street. God is not a pet
that we can domesticate and control. God is God, and if we are going to enter on the spiritual
journey, we must be ready to let God be God, and not expect God to favor our every whim. In the
book of the prophet Isaiah, God tells us that God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes we will
experience confusion and darkness. Sometimes we will be asking for answers and God will be
obstinately silent. Sometimes we will suffer tragedy or loss or pain in our lives, and we ask, “Why,
Lord? Why me?” Fr. Colin once said to someone who had come to him for spiritual direction:
“Your life must go through a great process of purification so that you can put on a new life. The will
must be purified by the test of contradictions, the understanding must be purified. The good Lord
allows that we no longer see anything, he leaves us as it were in a dark night, so that the will no
longer knows what to do and the understanding is at a loss. Then, when you emerge from that night,
you no longer see God in the same way: that is faith. You taste the truths of God in a completely
new way: you have a completely new idea of the holiness of God, and so on. And so we must pass
first of all through the dark night of the senses, where only faith remains, and an obscure faith at that
(for true faith is obscure); but then a new horizon is revealed where truths appear in a new light of
day. Then, if God wills, we may taste the sweetest consolations, but they are consolations of faith.
Come, now, take courage.”
To develop a taste for God and God’s ways, we must change. We must be transformed by God’s
grace. The process of transformation will be difficult and painful at times. But if we persevere in
faith, we will come to see that the Lord is good indeed, and the outcome will be a deep and abiding
joy. Mary’s joy deepened as she lived through the pains and sorrows of her life, remaining always
faithful to God, and learning by her experiences the ways of God that are so far above our ways.
This is Mary’s way. This is the Marist way.
Exploring the Marist Way