Holy Moments Wk 2: Choose Wisely
This week there are some incredible holy moments in the Gospel. We heard these wise men, the magi, were guided by a star. Seeing the star was a holy moment they recognized and followed. Every day the magi took to follow the star to honor Jesus, was a holy moment. Each step strung holy moments together to create a spiritual journey. This star, this holy moment, entered their horizon, and prompted their journey which changed their lives.
Other holy moments in the gospel: The chief priests and the scribes accurately interpreted and shared with the magi where Jesus would be. The magi joyously find Jesus, prostrate themselves before Jesus, and honor him with their gifts. And then there is one last holy moment when the magi, following the movement of the Holy Spirit through their dreams, decide not to return to Herod.
While there are many holy moments within this gospel, there are also some tragically unholy moments.
Herod also used the magi to try to find Jesus for the purpose of killing him. Herod saw Jesus as a threat, not a savior, and he was willing to take the life of God rather than seek his place in the story of God. We can push this even further. Herod had a chance millions have wished for over the last two thousand years, a chance to be with Jesus while he was on earth, a chance to know him, be in his presence, worship him, seek his wisdom, and so on. But Herod was so caught up in his ego, his pride, his self-interest, all he could see was a threat to his earthly power. Instead of choosing holy moments, cherishing them, and following them, he chose to create unholy moments.
You may still be wondering what a holy moment is. A holy moment is a single moment in which you open yourself up to God. You make yourself available to him. You set aside personal preference and self-interest, and for one moment you do what you prayerfully believe God is calling you to do. The truth is, most of the time, you don’t need anyone to define what a holy moment is and what an unholy moment is. When you’re faced with a decision, you know what God is asking of you. And even if you don’t right away, with enough time, prayer, and silence you will know.
Some moments are holy. Some moments are unholy. You get to decide. The three wise men chose in favor of holy moments. Herod did not.
Stringing holy moments together creates a spiritual journey one step at a time similar to the magi’s journey, one step at a time. The choices you make determine whether or not your journey is holy or unholy. What kind of journey are you on?
Some people are not on a spiritual journey but are instead spiritual wanderers. They love to travel. They go from church to church, book to book, fad to fad, seminar to seminar. They string together unholy moments, unholy because those moments don’t add up to anything of value. It’s not that anything fails to satisfy, they don’t want anything to satisfy. They prefer to simply surf the spiritual marketplace. They want a quest but no commitment. They are spiritual wanderers without any place to call home because home entails responsibilities; so they wander.
Then, there are spiritual shoppers. They don’t wander, but gather bits and pieces of different religions around them: a little bit of Buddhism, a little bit of Islam, a little bit of evangelical Christianity, a bit of Catholicism, a little bit of Judaism, a little bit of New Age thinking, a little bit of pop psychology, all blended into a kind of spiritual salad. The world of faith to them is like a huge galleria as they go from store to store buying an item here and item there for their spiritual shopping cart. The result is a mix that is nothing definite and has no name. It is faith without form, just a personal creation, loaded with cliches but powerless to redeem.
Then, there are the spiritual tourists. They are only visitors. They become religious at Christmas and Easter. They are sincerely impressed by the music, maybe the incense, the message but then they leave church and go back to their world with warm memories but are unchanged and unredeemed. They leave as they came because they are only visitors. They did not recognize the holy moments and treasure them.
Finally, there is another group of people who don’t journey at all but just comment on other people’s journeys. They are like sports commentators who never played the game; political analysts who never won an election; military analysts who never served in the army. They are observers, not participants, in the spiritual life. They put a negative spin on the things of life, create and spread gossip. They choose to create unholy moments. Their commentary comes across as tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
We are not spiritual wanderers, spiritual shoppers, spiritual tourists, or spiritual commentators. We are on a spiritual journey with a destination, guided by the star in our life. Things that happen in our life can be like that star, a holy moment, and if we are faithful to the graces given us with that star, that holy moment, we can come closer to the Lord.
A lot of people looked into that night sky centuries ago and saw only stars. Only the magi recognized the star, that holy moment, as a sign and followed it to Christ. Lots of people today experience illness, reversal, disappointment, a new appreciation of a forgotten truth, a new friendship. Only some recognize those things as a holy moment, a sign that leads closer to the Lord. On your journey, avoid the wanderers, the tourists, the shoppers, the commentators. Keep your eye on the destination, stay firm to your commitment, respect the star, the holy moment, and keep moving.
Don’t be distracted by those who say all religions are equal. They are not. Only Jesus Christ can cleanse, redeem, and give eternal life. Don’t be distracted by those who say that all roads lead to the same point. They don’t. Some are dead ends.
Don’t be distracted by those who say everyone has to find their own way. We all need guides, examples and models. We all need the wisdom of the Church. Don’t be distracted by those who say that the spiritual journey is not important. It is. It has to do with the salvation of your soul, the part of you that lasts beyond career, friends, and health. The spiritual journey is about the part of us that lasts forever.
The feast of the Epiphany is about more than a visit by exotic travelers from the East. It is about the journey of every soul toward God. The picture of these wise men before the Christ Child at the end of their journey should give us confidence that if we follow the grace and light God gives us, we will come to deeper union, fulfillment and peace in Christ, the perfect Light.
The more we learn to look for holy moments and choose them, the more habitual it becomes and the next thing we know our journey will be a true spiritual journey.
Some moments are holy. Some moments are unholy. You get to decide.
Herod made his choice. The people of Jerusalem made their choice. The magi made theirs. And now you get to make yours. Will you seek Jesus? Will you go to whatever length is needed to be with him? Or will you do whatever you need to in order to avoid him? Or will you actively try and destroy him and all he stands for? We all get to make this choice and we get to make it each and every day.
The only question is, what will you choose?