Looking Up

For Sunday, January 3, 2016, The Epiphany of the Lord

Horse - oil painting like cave painting a la Altamira.

On a summer’s day in 1879, an amateur archeologist named Marcelino de Sautuola went into a cave in Altamira, Spain, looking for prehistoric artifacts. He’d been there several times before, and hadn’t found much of interest. But this day, he brought with him his eight-year-old daughter. The two of them began to explore the cave. Marcelino was studying the ground, when he heard his little girl cry out. “Look, papa,” she said, “Oxen!” He couldn’t imagine what she was talking about, until he looked in her direction and saw she was pointing to the ceiling.

There, Marcelino saw them: the most incredible images—pictures of animals and people that had been left there over ten thousand years earlier. What his little girl spotted was later hailed as one of the greatest artistic discoveries ever. In the 1920s, Picasso visited the caves and came away awed. To this day, thousands visit Altamira every year to see what many consider to be the very beginnings of art.

And it happened because a eight-year-old looked up. She brought to that adventure a sense of wonder. Just like the Magi, the Wise Men, in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. They also looked up, saw the star, and then they followed.

The Magi had no idea where the star would take them. They didn’t know what their final destination would be. They couldn’t anticipate what they would find, or that it would all end up in Bethlehem.

The journey to Jesus was, for them, as it is for all of us: unpredictable, uncharted, unknowable.

And, significantly, it left them changed. As Matthew writes: “They departed for their country by another way.” After encountering Christ, they couldn’t travel the same road.

It should be that way for all of us. After discovering Jesus, after our own epiphanies, nothing can be quite the same.

John Henry Newman once wrote that “to live is to change.” It’s a beautiful thought for this season, when we’re starting a New Year and many of us are struggling to change old habits—or maybe lose old weight.

The fact is: all of us, like the Magi, are pilgrims on journey. But where will the journey take us?

Remember the Wise Men, the journey they took, the star they followed, the epiphany they made. They traveled to places unknown, guided by wonder. And they discovered the Son of God.

But we need to remember, too, that little girl in Altamira. So often, we spend our lives looking at the ground, studying the dirt, checking out the broken remnants of life that lie at our feet. We can miss the glory that is just above us. We can miss epiphanies.

So: Look up! Look forward. And follow. Follow the light, the light that is Christ.

And after that, we have no choice but to live differently—like the Magi, returning to our lives “by another way.”

Dcn. Greg Kandra

PRAYER

Remember us, O God;
from age to age be our comforter.
You have given us the wonder of time,
blessings in days and nights, seasons and years.
Bless your children at the turning of the year
and fill the months ahead with the bright hope
that is ours in the coming of Christ.
You are our God, living and reigning, forever and ever.

Prayer for the New Year, Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, USCCB.

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