The Eyes of Mercy – Pastor’s Reflection (January 8, 2017)
As we head into a new political era at home, and survey a volatile world beyond our borders I find that my gut response is to hope that other people change in a whole variety of ways. I perceive that my environment would be more healthful at all levels if only others recognized what they need to do, and not do. So long as I stick with this view I retain the luxury of blaming other people, high and low, near and far, for not heeding the obvious. But a far more insightful response comes when I realize that the first step toward world peace and domestic tranquility is for me to become more Christian.
This is why year after year I must celebrate the Epiphany and recognize Christ. For I discover each year that I have only begun to know Him and that He has something new to show me, something that has always been there, but that I have not always been ready to see or hear.
This means that I am always looking at the same surface, and also seeing further into what it reveals. This gets at what God intends by the mystery of the Epiphany, which is to make us able to see through appearances, not as through a facade to an interior, or as through makeup to a real face, but to recognize that what I look at actually discloses the shape of the invisible. In the light of this truth the Infant in the Manger, Jesus being baptized by John in the Jordan, and Christ the wedding guest in Cana disclose the mind and plan of God, not once, but continuously.
This year at Epiphany, Christ is showing me the loving gaze He casts on every person: on those who follow Him and those who don’t, on those who follow Him without qualification and those for whom life remains complicated. Christ reveals to me that not only is He recognized in the Epiphany, but that He recognizes. If Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist and the Magi, Andrew and Peter, James and John all come to see beyond the surface of Jesus’ humanity to recognize the living Word of God, he also sees the depths of each of them.
That gaze beholds the complexity of each one of us, not to analyze it, but to work with it, as at Cana to make fine wine out of water.
I know this gaze to be the secret of Christian vocation. In my work with committed Christians in all states of life I have recognized God doing amazing things with quite ordinary people who have quite ordinary personal issues. I have come to see this as part of the ongoing Epiphany. God shows His power through the human vulnerability that becomes its instrument and vessel.
Here shines new light on the weakness of great people: there are two ways for us to look at it. We can discover their clay feet and write them off, or we can be amazed by what God builds on such a foundation. This change of perspective is a way of becoming more Christian, and it gives an anatomy to mercy. Mercy sees the truth more deeply.
Probably the news will show us the same surfaces in 2017 that it did last year, and probably in our own worlds what we behold will remain constant. But we, living the sacramental life, will not be static and will grow in our potential to recognize in the way we have been recognized.