Saturday, November 19, 2016

Of Mirrors & Windows


Wedding Mass of Hans & Pauline

Readings: Job 37:1-14; Psalm 97; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 17:20-26
Picture: cc jase

Pauline & Hans, my dear friends, do you know the difference between a mirror and a clear glass window? I’m sure you do. A mirror is opaque. When I look at it, not only does it obstruct my vision. It also reflects my gaze back at me. So that all I see is myself. My own reflection. On the other hand, a clear glass window is transparent. It allows my gaze to penetrate its surface. I can look through a window. And see the things that lie beyond.

A mirror reflects. And a window directs. Two very different objects having contrasting effects on my vision. And yet, my dear friends, isn’t it true that mirrors and windows are not just different kinds of objects? Don’t they also represent two different ways of looking at things? Two different ways of looking at life? Let’s say, for example, that I’m caught in a sudden thunderstorm, while on my way to an important meeting. I’m delayed. Perhaps even soaked to the skin. How do you think feel? How do I view the storm?

I’m not sure about you. But I would probably look at it as I would a mirror. Seeing only a reflection of my own annoyance and frustration. And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Someone else might react quite differently. Might recall, for example, news reports of the alarmingly low water levels at certain reservoirs in nearby Johor. And, with this fact in mind, this person might look past personal annoyance, and see the storm more as a blessing than as a curse. So that the storm functions less as a mirror than as a window. Something that directs the gaze beyond the self and its immediate concerns to things that are beyond.

A mirror reflects. A window directs. These are not just two different kinds of objects. But also two contrasting ways of looking at life. If this is true, then perhaps the next question we might ask is whether and how mirrors can be turned into windows. Whether and how we can change our way of looking at life from one to the other. Indeed, I believe this is precisely the question that you, Hans and Pauline, are helping us to ponder. Even as we gather to rejoice with you on this happy day.

We find a first indication of this intention of yours in the note that you have penned on the opening page of your wedding booklet. Here, you write about how God speaks to us in nature. And of your desire to share with all of us the feeling of awe for the beauty of life. Quite obviously, you have gazed upon the different faces of nature. Upon the rain-drenched forest, the euphoric mountain-top, and the hardy drain-dwelling flower. You have looked at all these apparently ordinary things, and glimpsed the glory of God. And now, you wish to share with us this same experience. Helping us to look at nature not just as a mirror reflecting our own narrow concerns. But also as a window directing our minds and hearts to God, the Creator.

Isn’t this why you have made the highly unusual choice of a passage from the book of Job as your first reading? For what we find here is a hymn to the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. An invitation addressed to Job, in the midst of his trials, to consider the changing faces of the seasons. To listen to the voice of God, who speaks to us in the flashing of lightning and the clashing of thunder. In the caress of snow and the patter of rain. In the blowing of wind and the hardening of ice. To reflect on these ordinary things and to see the marvellous works of God.

But that’s not all. It’s not just in nature as a whole that you, Hans and Pauline, have encountered the Divine. More particularly, you have both also experienced God in each of your own lives. As well as in your interactions with each other. This is evident in the write-ups that you have shared with me. For example, you, Pauline, speak about having experienced in your own life a series of changes in direction where, in retrospect, you can see clearly God’s hand at work. You also write about how Hans anchors you to God. Of how the generosity and love that he invests in the people around him inspires you to do the same. Of how he reminds you of the meaning of life and the dignity of work when the going gets tough.

And Hans, on your part, you write about how, through her courage to dream, Pauline has taught you that it is okay to dream wildly too. Of how her love and support for you helps you to experience what God’s unconditional love feels like. Of how, reflecting on your own experiences, you see that God has turned your life around since a fateful retreat in 2007. Of how you have no doubt that marrying Pauline is one of the masterstrokes in God’s unfolding plan for you. And how you are excited to see what he holds in store for you both in the days ahead.

To look at the ups and downs of one’s own life, and the life of one’s beloved, and see the hand of God. Isn’t this what it means to look at life as if gazing through a window? And yet, Hans and Pauline, you both admit that it didn’t start out this way. Regarding your first meeting with Hans, you, Pauline, will only share this cryptic little line: Thankfully, it wasn’t love at first sight. However, you, Hans, are a little more forthcoming… I will never forget that my first impression was that she was slightly irritating!

From seeing another as an irritation, to recognising the hand of God at work. And then joyfully committing the rest of your lives to one another. This is indeed quite a journey. A journey, above all, of interior transformation. A journey in which we allow the way we look at the people and events of our lives to be changed. No longer as if they were mirrors, reflecting back to us our own narrow concerns. But more as if they were windows, directing our gaze ever onward, toward a marvellous vision of God.

This is precisely the kind of transformation that we find in the other two readings that you, Hans and Pauline have chosen. In the second reading, the writer prays that God the Father might enable your inner self to grow strong. So that rooted and established in love, you might have the strength to grasp… the love of Christ. And so be filled with the utter fullness of God. In the gospel, Jesus prays that his disciples might be so united to one another that the world might look at them and be drawn to recognise the love of God in Christ. He also prays that, by remaining united to Him, they may always see the glory of God.

To be able to look at everything and everyone in one’s life as a window directing one’s gaze into the fullness of God. Isn’t this a precious gift? A gift that comes to us when we receive Christ into our hearts. When we remain in the embrace of his love. A gift that God delights in offering us. If only we remember to ask. Which is why it is fitting that all our three Mass readings are, in fact, prayers. A hymn of praise and two petitions for love. Prayers that the rest of us offer especially for you, Hans and Pauline, as you begin your new life as husband and wife. But also for ourselves, as we continue on the pilgrimage of life.

Mirrors reflect. And windows direct. Hans & Pauline, my dear friends, what must we do to keep gazing through the window that directs us into the heart of God today?

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