Saturday, January 02, 2021

Unseen But Not (Necessarily) Invisible

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 71(72):1-2,7-8,10-13; Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

Picture: cc Frédérick Poirot

My dear friends, you may remember that back in 2011 we started using a new English text for Mass. And in the new version of the Creed, the words seen and unseen were replaced with visible and invisible. But what’s the difference between the unseen and the invisible?… The answer is found, I think, when we consider how people often meet with accidents these days, simply because they insist on fixing their eyes on their phones, instead of on where they’re going. These distracted people end up crashing into things that, though unseen by them, are clearly not invisible.

Which may help us to ponder a similar question that the gospel poses to us today. When that mysterious star, announcing the messiah’s birth, rises and shines brightly in the night sky, how is it that Herod and his scribes don’t seem able to see it? Clearly, the star was not invisible, since those wise men from a foreign land saw it, and experienced great joy in doing so. Why then did it remain unseen by Herod?

I’m not sure, my dear friends, but I wonder if it has something to do with another difference between the wise men and Herod. Could it be that the wise men were able to see the star, because they were willing to pay homage to the One to whom it led? As their gifts indicate, the wise men were eager to hail the infant as king, and even to worship him as God.

In contrast, like someone with his eyes glued to his phone, Herod was too distracted to do the same. Too anxious to defend his own privileged position, he was unable to see the star for what it was. That it announced the long-awaited fulfilment of the promise made by God in the first reading. The coming of a Light that would not only bring the Israelites home from exile, but also unite all peoples in paying homage to the one true God. As the second reading tells us, the mystery of Christ’s coming in the flesh means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them (to us), in Jesus Christ, through the gospel.

A Light that points to the consolation of homecoming, and communion in homage paid to God. Isn’t this also what we gather to celebrate at this Mass? But it’s important for us to see that the brilliance of this Light shines not just here, in our Scriptures and Sacraments. It also shines out there, in our pandemic-darkened world, where Covid-19 has proven to be a largely equal opportunity infection. It does not discriminate among nationalities or races or those of different social status. We will be truly safe only when everyone is safe. And yet, on the other hand, the virus has also revealed how much more vulnerable are those who, through no fault of their own, do not have enough space for safe and sane distancing, or soap and water for proper sanitising.

Sisters and brothers, if it is true that the Light of Christ shines, unseen but not totally invisible, even amid the shadows of our ailing world, then what must we do to recognise it more clearly, and to worship Him more wholeheartedly today?

No comments:

Post a Comment