Sunday, January 7, 2018

Wise men still seek Him

Happy solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord!

I thought I would jot down a few notes inspired by Mass today. Here is the Opening Prayer:

“O God, who on this day revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy that we who know you already by faith may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.”

It's funny (or sad) how sometimes the words of the prayers and readings of Mass go in one ear and out the other, without even pausing to register. And then other days, a sentence, or phrase, or word will jump out at you and sear itself into your brain, and inspire you to go home and meditate on it for a while. This phrase from the Opening Prayer caught my imagination this morning:


And note that the prayer asks God to open the eyes of those who "know you already by faith," that is, those of us who profess him, but perhaps fail to see or experience his glory on a regular basis. So how do we experience the beauty of God's sublime glory?

Well, for starters, we have to put in an honest effort. We have to open up our hearts and minds and adjust our attitudes so that we are open to seeing God's love and wisdom and glory, because it is usually all around us, all the time. Of course, it's not entirely up to "us" because we are often tired and weak and foolish.  Everything is grace, and we cannot do anything good without his help, but we must exert our wills insofar as we desire to know God--he will usually do the rest, even if it's only a little bit at a time. (Sometimes we can't handle more.)

The First Reading was from Isaiah 60:1-6

"...darkness shall cover the earth., and thick darkness the peoples."

Yes, isn't that the truth. Some translations (the one that appears in Messiah, which is probably King James) says "gross darkness" and that hits the mark even more accurately, because it applies in both senses: the actual dictionary sense (obvious, unacceptable and/or huge), and also the more colloquial/slang sense: disgusting. Alas, we live in pretty disgusting times.

BUT (and there's always a heavenly but, because God is our salvation):

"the Lord will arise... Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice."

Did your heart thrill and rejoice this morning at Mass? Let us pray that God gives us this grace more often. The message of Epiphany helps us see what there is to rejoice about.

In the second reading St. Paul says something crazy, radical, revolutionary and outlandish (especially if you were a hardcore member of the Chosen People). Literally OUT-LANDISH. It is this:

"the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."

In short, Salvation is a party, and everyone's invited. Whether or not they/we accept that invitation is another matter entirely, but everyone is included in the invitation. 

Today's Psalm contained several images that I love, among them:

"Peace till the moon is no more." (I actually prefer the translation "Peace till the moon fails"--that image captured my imagination as a wee tot, and it still gives me chills; it's simultaneously reassuring and apocalyptic.)

The antiphon we sang was "Lord, every nation on earth will adore you." And that statement makes my heart thrill and rejoice, because it's not just wishful thinking; it's true. Every knee will bend, every king and nation on earth will bow down before the Lord Jesus Christ. We may not live to see it, but it will come to pass just the same. That is why it doesn't pay to be excessively afraid of bad things that are happening in our lives, or in the world. God is ultimately in control and he is worthy of our trust. 

But those are big ideas. Most of us are wondering how to get through tomorrow. The Gospel gives us the answer: 

And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

When I heard the Gospel being proclaimed, I asked myself, "Does 'Herod' have a metaphorical meaning, and if so, what is it?" And then Father obligingly answered my question in his homily: "Herod" is what seeks to remove Jesus from our lives (and the world). Herod is what brings us down, what sometimes threatens our safety and always threatens our sanctity. Herod is Temptation; Herod is when we default to our lazy or sinful "Same old, same old." 

Don't go back to Herod; as Father said in his homily, "Take a different route." 

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