January 6, 2008
They prostrated themselves and did him homage. - Mt. 2: 2
Prostration & homage are not something we do much any more. About the closest we get to it these days is standing in line for hours to get a ticket for a rock concert. There is a reason for this. To prostrate ourselves is to acknowledge that we are in the presence of a higher power infinitely more important than we are, & that is something we moderns have difficulty recognizing. Scientific & technological advances have allowed us the illusion that we are in control of our destiny. Inconveniently, life has a disconcerting way of disabusing us of that illusion. It is a painful but worthwhile lesson.
There is the story of an angel who asked the risen Jesus on His arrival in heaven, “Lord, what have you left behind to carry out the work?” “A little band of men & women who love me,” said Jesus. Angel: “But Lord, what if they fail when the trial comes? Will all you have done be defeated? Is there nothing more?” Jesus: “No.” Angel: “What then Lord?” Jesus: “THEY WILL NOT FAIL.”
In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us of God’s secret plan which is “that the Gentiles are coheirs … & copartners in the promise of Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph. 3: 6). In short, the Covenant between God & humanity is no longer exclusive, but astonishingly inclusive. Given humanity’s track record, the angel had every reason to be anxious. God apparently has more confidence is us than we do in ourselves. He must know something we do not. That is an awesome thought that calls for serious reflection. It should humble us enough to fall down in adoration.
An artist once painted a picture in which a solitary figure is seen rowing a small boat across the dark waters of a lonely lake. A high wind is churning up the waters causing white-crested billows to rage ominously around the tiny skiff. As he rows on, the boatman’s eyes are fixed on the one lone star shining through the darkness. Under the picture, the artist has inscribed these words: “If I lose that, I am lost.” In the manner of that dauntless boatman, our mission is to keep our eyes fixed on the star born in Bethlehem amidst the smell of animal droppings & the threat of annihilation. In order that our Lord may number us among those who love Him & will carry on His work, we must follow His star to the foot of the cross. It is only from the cross that the guiding star can lead us to the empty tomb. It is there, at the place of resurrection, where the risen Christ can be heard to say, “THEY WILL NOT FAIL.” It is also the place where we may respond in truth: “WE WILL NOT FAIL.”
There is way too much at stake here. The resources we bring to the task are indeed puny & provide ample cause for skepticism. But that is only if we refuse to draw upon the grace that God is continually offering us in the sacraments & in each other. This is yet another reason why we cannot afford the luxury of sniping & quarreling among ourselves. That is the way of the world. Our Lord came to lead us away from all that, to show us a better way of life called the Kingdom of God .
How can we know if we are finding that way, if we are on the right track? One way – certainly not the only way, but one indicator – is our capacity for adoration. It is only when we have the humility to acknowledge the awesomeness of both the task & the grace God is offering us that we can begin to appreciate His confidence in us. Having done all that we can (& sadly, that is often NOT the case), we can trust that He will make up for our lack. It is then that we can trust Him to decide what we are worth in the final analysis. If we can in good faith prostrate ourselves before His Majesty, we will be pleasantly surprised to find out just how much God values us. AMEN!