Whenever I have gotten away from the perpetual glow of city lights, what has struck me most is the richness of the night sky. Because I see the display so seldom, it is almost impossible for me to stop craning my neck to take in all the stars and constellations and galaxies that are visible on a clear night.
Early each year, we celebrate the journey of a group of storied astronomers who also couldn’t stop studying the heavens. Their recognition of an anomaly in the night sky led them on a journey west to find “the one!”
Their journey, however, did have one disastrous outcome. They made the terrible mistake of trusting in the center of power in Judea to guide them to the truth. Their search for the Child posed a great threat to the powerful king who wanted to locate this new ruler not to worship him but to destroy him. The visitors trusted the king and did not question his motives.
Although the wise men were warned of the king’s intentions and were diverted to an alternate route home, and although Joseph packed up is wife and his newborn son and fled as a refugee into Egypt, the king would not be deterred. His paranoia led him to the heinous crime of slaughtering innocent children.
Our New Year’s mission—our search for the Prince of Peace—will not reach its goal in the courts of kings and presidents and dictators or in the halls of corporate power. After two thousand years, the innocent are still being slaughtered because of greed and a lust for power. Many of the innocent suffer at the hands of those who with their mouths say they want to serve God, but by their actions they serve only themselves.
Just as the lights of civilization hide the luster of the stars, so also do consumerism, selfishness, alienation, fear, and a desire for pleasure and comfort hide the shining example of the Savior of the world. Those who would lead others so often try to polarize people, create enemies, and sow fear and distraction They even mock the notion of that we ought to be about loving one another not demonizing one another.
There are real dangers in the world, but if we truly believe in the message of the Incarnation, we will ignore the ranting of those who would embrace xenophobia or distrust or anger or dissatisfaction as a way of life. As a New Year’s resolution we can reevaluate our own priorities and join with our fellow Christians and everyone of good will in sowing hope, love, faith, trust, charity, patience, kindness, and a care for those in need.
With resolve and God’s grace, we can be God’s instruments for fulfilling the words of the responsorial psalm for the feast of the Epiphany
As the world grows more violent and hostile, it is important that our lives, our words, and our actions convey peace and calm. It is important for us to welcome the stranger not cast him or her out. It is important that we lift up the poor not climb over their backs. It is critical that we show mercy to sinners and compassion to the weak. It is essential that we witness to rights of those who are different from ourselves.
I start out each year looking at the heavens and realizing that the universe is so very vast and our life span so very short that we cannot lose perspective or fail to act.
I invite you all to some serious stargazing in 2016. I hope we all see in the heavens what Isaiah saw. Our joy is found in protecting the innocent. Our splendor is found not in earthly riches but in our mission of peace and love and our undying hope for the future
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!
Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you.