In the United States, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany today. That’s why there is this special reflection offered especially to the readers of the Daily Reflections Page for readers from around the world who celebrate the Second Sunday of Christmas. Greetings from chilly and snowy Omaha!
Larry Gillick developed this insight decades ago (footnote!) that adult Christians live out our discipleship in the tension between WHAT IS and WHAT OUGHT TO BE. I’ve been helped greatly by that insight. And, I see that it plays out today in the scripture passages for this Sunday.
The WHAT IS: It seems to me that, over the past twenty, perhaps thirty years, one of what I considered an essential facet of American Catholicism has been slowly eroding. It seems to me that U.S. Catholics for the most part have been characterized by a sense of optimism that understands life as progressing ever upward. “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” It’s almost as if the great ‘institutions’ we placed our trust in have all been wracked by scandal resulting in the erosion of hope and trust: The Church, government, family life, society, and now business and economics. I can only guess that the hard times we see here in this country are occurring in your countries... And then some!
The WHAT SHOULD BE: In one sense, for us Americans, I’d say that what should be involves a return to a belief in and experience of indefinite progress. Who wants to suffer? Who wants to have one’s horizon chipped away? Who wants to face diminishment? Not us in the U.S. Not me.
Here’s my point: The first and second readings paint the picture of WHAT SHOULD BE from the non-jaundiced eye of God. It’s called eschatology. It’s the divine vision of WHAT WILL BE on the last day. When I first read these passages, I thought: “I don’t see a whole lot of wisdom today.” And, “I don’t exactly share Paul’s vision of a world bright with God’s presence.” (I’m Irish-American, that explains it)
You might catch better what I mean by rereading the passages from today’s psalm and think of today’s refugees, immigrants, unemployed, and desperate people hoping for peace all around the world.
Glorify the LORD, Jerusalem; Zion, offer praise to your God,
This is God’s eschatological promise, to accomplish this on the last day through divine grace and graciousness as well as our graceful co-working.
Thus, the readings today seem to invite us to hold together maybe three facets – what is, what should be, and what will be. Perhaps the comfort the divine vision of the final day might console us in such a way that we enflesh the Wisdom, the hope, the mystery of God laboring in our world in a way not unlike what Jesus did, taking flesh in our midst. Perhaps this is the hope that lies beyond our/my demands for things to be “always and in every way, better and better.” Merry Christmastide!
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