Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
Feast of the Epiphany
Once arriving home from school for the holidays I was overcome by rare feelings of generosity and asked my mother how I could help her get ready for the festivities. Casting an amused look around the pre-Christmas chaos she quipped, “Gee, I don’t know; just look around and see if anything catches your eye in.” So much for my grand gesture!
Some folks are convinced that it’s crucial to return elements of the mystical to our world. They are certain that the Church has lost its sense of the sacred and has discarded our rich spiritual heritage creating a trivial, feeble, boring religion focused only on what we can see and measure. An earnest young man once informed me that we needed to move past worldly preoccupations and promote what Celtic religion refers to as the thin spots in life, where the sacred world is near at hand and easily grasped. We should stress the wonder of the sacraments, especially the mystery of the Eucharist, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We should emphasize the world’s holy places like the Vatican, Lourdes, cathedrals and shrines. “Folks today have lost their grasp of the spiritual and divine, they’re drowning in the ordinary,” he informed me. This thinking is strong in many circles and carries significant official backing. Still, it misses a huge point. The sacred is not the other-worldly.
Jewish Scripture repeatedly points out that the world is full of God’s goodness and splendor (e.g., Num. 14:20, Is. 6:3, Hab. 2:14). In the gospel Jesus bluntly points out that those who feed and care for others, especially the needy, feed and care for him (Mt. 25:35). At the heart of our every Eucharist prayer the priest raises his hands over the bread and wine that ordinary folks make in ordinary wineries and bakeries. He asks the Holy Spirit to transform these symbols of our efforts for the life God promises into the divine guarantee that is Christ.
It’s tempting to seek the sacred and meaningful in a sphere where, by our beliefs, we control the demands and their fulfillment. In the everyday world the demands and consequences of our action or inaction are objective, immediate and measurable: sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail and often we get exasperatingly mixed results. That’s a lot different; a lot tougher. Still, this is the world God gives us and promises to transform into his Kingdom. This is the arena of our faith lives.