Thursday, January 01, 2015

Sight, Sound & Spirit

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
(Octave Day of Christmas)
Picture: cc  Lori Greig

Sisters and brothers, have you ever been moved to tears while watching a movie or a show on TV? Do you ever find a lump rising in your throat when you listen to someone sing a song or deliver a speech? Do certain sights and sounds touch a chord within you and make you cry? Without you knowing exactly why? And when you remain with those feelings, sit with those tears, you may discover something about yourself. About the world. And even about God. It’s as if, through your tears, something new was being born within you. And, through you, into the world.

For some of us, this kind of experience happens quite frequently. But, for others, only rarely. Maybe never. What do you think accounts for this difference? Why are some of us so easily moved by what we see and hear? While others seem so unaffected? So impervious? Perhaps it has something to do with our psychological make-up. Some of us are just more emotional than others. Or perhaps it’s got to do with the sights and sounds themselves. Maybe we just haven’t been exposed to the right ones. Those powerful enough to move us deeply. Strong enough to bring something new to birth within us. Or perhaps the reason lies elsewhere. Maybe what is required are not just sights and sounds, but something else as well. Something that makes us more attentive, more open, to significant situations. Allowing them to move us deeply. To bring something new to birth within us. And, through us, into the world.

Something that makes us more open to significant sights and sounds. Something that makes us give birth to new things. This, my dear friends, is also what our Mass readings speak about today. In the first reading, God teaches Moses how to bless the people. And the blessing has everything to do with sights and sounds. Moses is taught the words to use, the sounds to make, that will enable the people to see the sight of God uncovering God’s face to them. To recognise and appreciate the brilliance of God’s smile. Shining upon them. Illuminating the darkness of their hearts and their lives. Giving birth to true and lasting peace.

The responsorial psalm widens the scope of this blessing. Not just the people of Israel, but all the nations will enjoy its benefits. Will feel its effects. The psalmist asks God to let your face shed its light upon us. So will your ways be known upon earth and all nations learn your saving help. The psalmist prays that God’s justice and fairness may be born again, not just for the good of Israel, but for all the nations on earth.

This prayer for God’s blessing finds its final answer in the gospel. In the birth of Jesus, God literally uncovers God’s face to us. This is what the shepherds experience on that first Christmas night. The sights and sounds of angels announcing the Saviour’s birth. Of Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. And, like people deeply moved by a movie or a song, those shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. And not just the shepherds. Mary and Joseph too are so moved by the sights and sounds of that first Christmas night that they name their child Jesus. A name with means God-Saves. Even though they had to endure so much hardship to bring their baby to birth, they recognise in him the face of God shining upon them. And, through them, upon the whole world.

But we know that not everyone was moved by the sights and sounds of that first Christmas. Most of those in Bethlehem were oblivious to what was happening. Engrossed in celebrations or worries of their own. And we can probably understand their indifference. After all, what’s so significant about an unknown baby being born in a filthy stable? Isn’t that more of a tragedy than a reason for joy? And yet, some were deeply moved. So what accounts for the difference? Was it simply due to psychological reasons? Or because the sights and sounds were just not powerful enough? Or does the reason lie elsewhere?

For us to be moved by God’s blessing, for us to recognise God’s face, something more is required. And the second reading tells us just what this is. God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, “Abba, Father.” Sisters and brothers, it is not just through sights and sounds, but through the power of the Spirit, that we are able to recognise the signs of God’s blessing. To see the light of God’s face. To feel the warmth of God’s smile. And so to do what the people in the gospel are doing. Rejoicing in the saving power of God. Singing the praise and glory of God. Even partnering with God in giving birth to something new in our world.

And this is an important lesson for us on this last day in the octave of Christmas. When we celebrate the Motherhood of Mary. We remember not just the sights and sounds of that first Christmas night. But also, and above all, the powerful presence of the Spirit. Moving people to recognise, in apparently ordinary, even tragic, situations, the extraordinary blessing of God. Bringing something new to birth. In their hearts. In their lives. And in our world.

What we celebrate today, sisters and brothers, is not just the Motherhood of Mary, as an event in the past. But also the Motherhood of the Church, as an ongoing process. A process by which we attend to the sights and sounds of our lives, with eyes and ears made sensitive by the Spirit. So that we can partner God in bringing peace and justice to birth in our world.

And this is especially meaningful for us today. For even as we celebrate the joys of a New Year, we cannot ignore the tragic sights and sounds around us. We cannot remain unmoved by the plight of hundreds of relatives mourning the loss of loved ones to a plane crash in Indonesia. Or of tens of thousands of refugees displaced by flood waters in Malaysia. Perhaps some of us may think it inappropriate to speak of such sad situations on New Year’s Day. But is it really? Is it not rather our responsibility, as God’s holy people, to continue gazing upon these sad sights. To continue listening intently to these heartbreaking sounds. And to remain open to God’s All-Powerful Spirit. To be like Mary, who pondered the sights and sounds of her son’s birth in her heart. So that we may learn to recognise the light of God’s face, already shining out in the darkness. So that we may learn to sing the song of God’s justice and peace, already coming to birth in us. And, through us, into the waiting world.

Sisters and brothers, today God continues to bestow upon us a blessing that is also a responsibility. The blessing and responsibility of being the Mother of God. The blessing and responsibility of attending carefully to ordinary sights and sounds, with hearts open to the powerful movements of the Spirit. So that Christ might once again be brought to birth in us. And, through us, into our waiting world.

Sisters and brothers, what must we do to allow ourselves to continue being moved by the Spirit today and throughout this New Year?

1 comment:

  1. O Lord,

    When I pray the Lord's Prayer earnestly, I am unable to pretend nor ignore that the Air Asia Flight QZ8501 tragedy/accident did not take place ....

    On the contrary, I am saddened by yet another air-mystery as the year 2014.ends.. it's the 3rd aviation incident and what a way to end 2014!

    O Lord, as the New Year begins, may the Holy Spirit come upon us as He continues to inspire us to walk in God's ways and to bring God's love, care and compassion to those in need.

    Let us learn to put on the mind of Christ and adopt His same care and concern for all peoples - let us emulate Christ's sincerity and a genuine concern for all.

    Veni, Sanctus Spiritus - Come, Holy Spirit!

    Sih Ying
    Saturday 3 January 2015