Smelling God

SMELLIt’s the bread that’s slowly baking in the oven when I open the door coming home from school.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Cinnamon was our family’s Saturday morning treat growing up along with sugar on a bun baked, again, in the oven.

“Come out smelling like a rose.”

Snuggling up with freshly sun dried sheets and pillow cases and us kids didn’t need a lullaby song to fall into deep sleep.

“Wake up and smell the coffee.”

Such a rich scent in the morning as coffee is freshly brewed and savored until you read the morning paper’s headlines…oh well…

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled like bacon.”

A good liar tells us to our face about this and that while keeping perfect eye contact. He thinks he’s fooled and conned us but he forgot about the other senses. We just smell something rotten in what’s he conveying to us.

“Don’t wear perfume in the garden unless you want to be pollinated by bees.”

Even though I’m a smoker, the scents continue to spread as a signal of something present or, what is more fun, the past. Last night I smelled basil or bay leaves.  I’m not sure but I know it reminded me of my mother’s cooking. Rarely garlic but lots of cooking scents.  Sight and sound are the two senses we probably recognize and act from the most.  But it is our smelling that goes deeper and can provide more information, more useful information for our lives.

“Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.”

The Church makes a big deal about hearing – “hear” the gospel with ears that usually hears what they want to hear.  “See” the good news active in your life as though vision is the most important.  Hearing and seeing are the first layers of our observations.  Probing deeper you need to use a sense that discreetly uncovers the truth of something or the gist of someone.  That deeper layer beneath hearing and seeing is….smelling.

“Money is like manure. You have to spread it around or it smells.”

A movie called “An American Quilt” is the only one I can think of that uses smell as a device. Anne Bancroft slowly walks around her husband at a party and then quietly says, “I smell adultery.” As only she could say it.

“I smell a rat.” Where’s Edward G. Robinson when you need him?

“Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.”

It’s a typical Sunday morning and the gospel begins with, “A father had two sons…”  We immediately know it’s the Prodigal Son story, we know it’s too long and we know how it ends.  Been there, done that, move on.  We’ve seen and heard it before but have we ever smelled the Prodigal Son story?  Have we ever dug deeper into its meaning and its meaning for our lives?  Can we smell the father’s love as a ring and cope are placed on his lost son.  We can smell the cooking fatted calf?  Can we smell the jealousy of the older son?  Now we’re really becoming gospel people.
Ex-smokers say they still enjoy the smell of smoke. Go figure. We may not enter Dunkin’ Donuts but the memory of the whiffs brings a smile to your face.

“There’s always a period of curious fear between the first sweet-smelling breeze and the time when the rain comes cracking down.”

I’m sure we have peculiar scents that catch our attention even if it is not shared by others.  For me it’s bus exhaust.  I don’t why or how but if you see me slightly bent at a bus stop, please don’t be surprised.

“It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves.”

Este Lauder was my mother’s and Old Spice was my dad’s. Silly smells that triggers life long memories.  I can still smell them together.
Oh wait! What does this little dribble have to do with sin, grace and Church?  We all want to get to heaven…”come out, smelling like a rose.”  Well, it’s St. Paul’s fault.  He told us today that the sacrifice of Jesus by God is the same sacrifice God asks of us…to make of us as he made of Jesus, a “fragrant aroma.”
Trust me on this, I have a nose for stuff like this.

(And don’t forget the new car scent.)

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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1 Response to Smelling God

  1. Pingback: Fr. Joe’s Homily: Smelling God | Saint Sebastian

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