The world has always been exceedingly complex. Throughout the ages God has communicated with His people, sending signs of His care to us through the prophets and all the holy men and women who served Him. When God finally decided to send His Son into the world, it should not surprise us that the heavens complied, so to speak, to alert the wise men who ventured forth to see where the newborn king was born. The light of the ‘star’ not only guided them, but it provided light for Mary and Joseph, helping them navigate to Bethlehem as well. It also was a beacon for the shepherds and all those who sought out Emmanuel, God-with-us. And just as the slogan we see at Christmas says, “Wise men (and women) still seek Him,” we must seek Jesus every day of our lives and not only during the holiday season. That is why being recently alerted to the convergence of stars and planets was a good reminder.
However, God does send us signs of His presence that we are meant to perceive. First and foremost He is present to us in Word and Sacrament. God is present in the Scriptures and this is why we should continually pore over the Bible. We will not understand everything and we will find much mystery, but the more we immerse ourselves in Scripture the more we open ourselves to His voice. When we reflect and pray over the Scriptures we can see how much we need God, but we can also see His unfathomable goodness, mercy, and love. This is unchanging: He always has been, is, and always will be; and He always has been, is, and always will be Love. This means that no matter how little we understand, and how unable we are to keep from falling into sin, He has always loved us, loves us now, and will always love us. God's mercy and compassion are deeper than the oceans and vaster than the infinity of the cosmos. This is our faith.
Finally, God is present to us through that which He has created. In the encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis makes it clear that we are stewards of the earth, as the Bible indicates, and that in beauty we see God reflected. The Pope wrote: “What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. ‘Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker’ (Wis 13:5); indeed, ‘his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world’ (Rom 1:20). For this reason, [St.] Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty. Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” *
May we ask God to help us see the beacons of light He offers to guide us! May we allow God to shine like the Star of Bethlehem within us, so that we may be filled with His light! May we be a beacon of the light of God’s love for others! In our weakness may we find His strength as we try to live within the uncertainties and complexities of our world! May we have hearts attuned to God, finding Him in His Word and in the Sacraments! May we find peace and bring peace to a world in need of it! And may we be filled with gratitude because of God's infinite care and mercy! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
*The quote is from paragraph 12 of the recent encyclical Laudato si’, written by Pope Francis. The entire encyclical can be found at:
The photo of the stars is found at https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Star
The icon is St. Ignatius in Prayer Beneath the Stars by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/gallery-views/holy-men-icons/product/133-st-ignatius-in-prayer-beneath-the-stars
Following the icon is a favorite painting, a print of which hangs in my house: Chalice and Host Surrounded by Garlands of Flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem (1648)
The following two photos are mine. The first is a garden in Ireland and the second is the sky, taken while on a recent trip to New Mexico.