Friend and presenter at the Center, Fr. Michael Schleupner, shares another great message with us today. If you are looking forward to summer plans, you may want to consider a silent directed retreat and Fr. Mike will be serving as a spiritual director during the August 15-21 retreat. You can click here to learn more.
We’re saying goodbye to the Christmas season, but today’s message is one that we can still carry forward throughout the whole year. Let’s take a few quiet moments to reflect.
Lights of the Heavens
I imagine we have all had the experience of just gazing at the moon. I have done this sometimes, especially when there is a full moon. On a clear night, the moon is beautiful and bright, as it is surrounded by the darkness of space.
It is amazing how much it can light up a dark night. And besides the moon, aren’t the stars amazing?
Isn’t it a special treat to be in the countryside or the mountains or on the beach at the ocean on a clear night? Then we can look up and really see countless stars shining in the midst of the darkness.
Both Light and Darkness
In todays’ [Sunday’s] gospel, the magi look up into the dark sky and see a bright star. They follow that star, and it brings them to the newborn Jesus. Have you ever reflected that stars, like the one the magi saw, can only be seen against a backdrop of darkness? This is a simple, obvious fact, but it is good to remember it. I say that because sometimes we are tempted to want to have stars or light without darkness.
In the Christmas season, aren’t we tempted to say: wouldn’t it be nice if every day were like Christmas? Wouldn’t it be nice if each day were full of such a joyful spirit? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no darkness in life? But of course, deep down, we all know that in real life, there is good news and bad news, joy and sadness, light and darkness.
Accepting the darkness that we cannot change is often very difficult, but it is a sign of wisdom. And, besides accepting it, there is one other thing we can do.
Control our Focus
We also have the ability to choose what we look at. We can decide to look at the light or at the darkness. I mean, with our family members or friends, we can choose to focus on their faults or on their good qualities – we can choose our focus.
Most people whom we would regard as effective or successful have their share of sorrows and setbacks like anyone else. What makes the difference is that they generally concentrate on the light rather than on the darkness.
If we just keep thinking about all the bad things that happen, we will soon feel down. But if we focus on the good, we will feel uplifted.
So, Look at the Stars
So, inner peace and joy often depend on little more than a shift in focus. We don’t pretend that the darkness isn’t there. But like the magi, we can choose to concentrate on the stars instead of the darkness.
I had an experience of this on Christmas Eve in another parish. I and several others after one of the Masses started to bemoan the pandemic and express sadness that so few people were coming to Christmas Mass. But then something hit me. And frankly, it wasn’t me; it had to be God speaking through me.
I found myself saying: “But just think. At Easter, we were closed, and none of us was here. At least some of us are here now and we’re on the way back.” I think that’s an example of looking at the light instead of the darkness!
So, yes, we can choose what we focus on. And above all, we can choose to follow the stars – holy persons, inspiring writers, and especially, the Gospels – we can choose to follow the stars that shed light and not darkness. If we do this, like the magi, we will eventually come to the one who is “God from God, light from light.” We will be with the light, in the light, and maybe even become the light for one another.
~Fr. Michael Schleupner