Friday, January 6, 2017

"Don't know where to begin/living in sin" on Epiphany

Yesterday was the twelfth day of Christmas and today, at least for Catholics in most parts of the world, but not in the United States of America, is Epiphany, marking the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. U.S. Catholics will celebrate Epiphany this Sunday. Christmas for us will end, with something of a thud, on Monday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Epiphany marks the day when the magi, or "wise men," from the East made their way to Bethlehem to pay tribute to the newborn King of kings. We say there were three, traditionally given the names Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior, because they offered the holy infant three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold for a King, frankincense for a priest, and myrrh, which was used an analgesic and to anoint dead bodies. It was wine mixed with myrrh that Jesus was offered to ease his suffering a bit as he hung dying on the cross. Among Eastern Christians, St. Mary Magdalene is known as Myrrophore, or "myrrh-bearer," because she came to anoint Jesus' body in the tomb, to serve her dearly beloved Lord in this humble manner. In Jesus' day myrrh, which is obtained from trees that grow on the Arabian peninsula and in parts of Africa, was more valuable than gold. Giving the Christ-child the gift of myrrh looked forward to his atoning death on the cross, which was both his throne and the altar on which he offered himself to the Father for us and for our salvation.

On Christmas Eve, upon walking in the door of our house after returning home, through a gathering snow storm, from the Vigil Mass for the Lord's Nativity with two of our three younger sons in tow, I was immediately summoned back to the church by my wife, who serves as our parish music director and whose youth choir sang for that liturgy. She needed me to pick her and my other young son up and bring them home. I had forgotten that she'd let our oldest son drive our other vehicle to work and that I needed to go back. I was tired, more than a little on edge, and worried because I was serving at and preaching for Christmas Mass During the Night. As I was backing my car out of the garage I clipped off the external mirror on the passenger side. Now, I could say this upset me and leave it there. But in all honesty it royally pissed me off and sent me into what is only fair to describe as a rage. This was exacerbated for me when, upon arriving at the church, my wife and son weren't waiting for me, but still inside putting things away. Why the hurry, if they weren't ready? My anger continued through ride home until well after we arrived back home. I wasn't justifiably angry. I was sinfully angry. Of course, later, after returning to my senses, I felt terrible and apologized and set about doing what I could to undo the effects of temper tantrum.

Fast-forward to last night. Like on Christmas day, the Wasatch Front was hammered with snow the previous evening. Even the valley floor received a good 5"-6" of snow. I had arisen at 5:30 AM, my usual time, but instead of my usual hour or so of prayer and quiet, I immediately went and set about removing snow from our driveway and sidewalks. After it stopped snowing, the temperature plummeted and it has remained very cold, turning all water into sheets of ice. As I was sitting down to supper, my oldest son came and picked up the keys to our van and started for the garage door. I asked him if he had cleared using the van with his Mom and I also asked him where he was going. He told me he was going to the new Scorcese film Silence. I was certainly all in favor of him going to this movie, but I expressed concern about the condition of roads (icy and slick) and re-issued my paternal warning that we should be limiting our driving.

In the meantime, my wife was ferrying two of our younger sons back-and-forth to the church gym for their basketball practices as well as dropping off and picking up our teenage daughter and her friend from an exercise class. All of this driving on dangerous roads had me on edge, especially after a slow and treacherous drive to and from work. No less than 15 minutes after our oldest son left he called informing us he had been in an accident. The other car was undamaged and nobody, including our son, was hurt. But our van, which we bought used six years ago after the same son had been in a pile up (not his fault) and totaled our previous well-used van, was badly damaged and is likely totaled. It isn't worth very much, but it was a reliable vehicle.

How did I react? You guessed it: Poorly. I went off again. There is no need to go into details about what I said, yelled, insinuated, etc. Let's just say it was another indisputably sinful tirade, most of which happened while I was alone (thank God). Let's also say that in both instances, I'm pretty sure I found a few new ways of employing the f-word. But I am solely responsible and wholly guilty for both episodes. No excuses and no blame-shifting. Guilty-as-charged.

Because we are one vehicle down, I had to drive our teenage daughter to school this morning, an activity I enjoy. She's a great kid and a fun person with whom to converse. This morning was no exception, we had a pleasant drive. I usually pray the Rosary driving to work and often pray it again driving home. After dropping her at school, I took beads in hand and, feeling terribly guilty, just couldn't bring myself to pray the Rosary. Instead, I simply said a Memoraré and turned on the radio in search of something, I didn't know what. I landed on a Christian radio station playing Erwin Lutzer's preaching program "Running to Win." I am not ashamed to say that I listen to certain to Evangelical preachers from time-to-time, not often, but once-in-awhile for a variety of reasons. Lutzer is one to whom I listen and Alistair Begg is another.

Nobody will ever convince me that what I heard Dr. Lutzer say upon tuning in wasn't the Blessed Virgin's answer to my desperate plea for help this morning. How vexing would Pastor Lutzer find that assertion?! Here's my epiphany on the Epiphany:
And I want you to know that it is not possible for us to be able to understand this life or to understand all that God has prepared for us, unless we spend some time really thinking about eternity. It's possible for us in this life to become so wrapped up in time, in the struggles that we have, the anticipation of the day that we're gonna have, the anxieties, the pressing financial issues, the issues that oftentimes come up with our children, or relational issues. These can become so overwhelming that we forget eternity is coming... get our eyes off the earthly things and begin to think about the heavenly things and to think eternity and to remember God's love for us and all He has done for us in Jesus
These days, the trend among Catholics is not to focus on eternity at all, but on the here-and-now. But this is a false dichotomy. We attend to eternity by paying attention to what happens right in front of us. After all, it is in and through the circumstances and situations in which we daily find ourselves that God is at work, beckoning us to the full realization of our destiny.

Our Lady did grant me the grant me the grace to desire and pray her Most Holy Rosary on my way home from work. Gratias Beatissimae Virginis Mariae.

Our Friday traditio for this first Friday of 2017 is by the group Electronic. Electronic was formed by New Order's lead singer Bernard Sumner (before that he was in Joy Division, which reformed after Ian Curtis' death and became New Order) and The Smith's guitarist Johnny Marr. Without a doubt their biggest hit was "Get the Message," which is our traditio:

Hark, the herald angels sting
Please repair my broken wing
Why won't you look at me? I live and breathe

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Scott for sharing. Having had some recent challenges and getting wrapped up in the craziness of life I have found myself in similar circumstances and then stumble upon a spiritual reading or song that seems to guide me through it all.


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