August 20, 2017
Although today is the day we commemorate the Assumption or Our lady Mary into heaven, it also coincides with something unique this year. The eclipse. Mary desires no worship or fanfare, though, as the Mother of Christ, she certainly deserves some, but in her sinless nature, by the grace of God, she is humble and desires nothing that which belongs to Christ. So, given the eclipse, we shall do a little twist of a comparison of Christ the Son to the sun in the outer reaches of space. (And, no, before anyone even goes there; the world isn’t coming to an end. Eclipses have taken place since the creation of the world and have nothing to do with the apocalypse as some subscribe to. However, that’s not the topic today.)
So, as all of you are aware, on Monday a solar eclipse will be visible in the United States, cutting a narrow swath across the country from the Pacific NW in a slightly southeasterly direction to South Carolina.
The Moon is a Mirror; and on Monday, it goes rogue.
As we have all heard by now, a total solar eclipse will be visible in totality within a band across the entire contiguous United States. It will only be visible in other countries as a partial eclipse. The eclipse begins in Lincoln City, Oregon, at 8:46 a.m. PDT and ends in South Carolina at 5:04 p.m. EDT.
Making a buck is at the core of the American experience, is it not? No surprise then that a trinket industry, fueled by hungry entrepreneurs, is springing up faster than weed shops in Colorado. In Lincoln City, for example, hotel rooms are sold out and have been for some time. You can buy eclipse-themed T-shirts, coffee mugs, buttons and more. Even I got in on the action a couple of months ago and bought a few of those disposable “eclipse glasses.” Restaurants and cafes will offer specially-named items on the menu. The eclipse is big business.
What is an eclipse? Quite simple, really: An eclipse occurs when the moon stands in front of the sun, that is, between the sun and the earth, blocking its light. We all know this is not a normal occurance.
And, truth is, the moon doesn't do this very often. The last time in the U.S. was 1979, and the last time the moon positioned itself in front of the sun all the way across the contiguous United States was June 8, 1918, almost 100 years ago.
During an eclipse what you have is a situation in which, basically the moon is photobombing the sun's selfie. For a few hours, the moon is going rogue.
But, by this eclipse, we have a an opportunity of a reminder of our role as followers of Jesus.
Here it is in simple terms. Jesus is the Son. We are not. We are moons. We should not step in front of the Son and block the light.
Jesus used many metaphors to describe himself and his ministry in ways we can relate to in regard to the eclipse. He said: "I am the Bread of Life," "I am the Living Water." "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." "I am the Good Shepherd." But he also said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).
Question is: How do we sometimes block the light? The light of Jesus will shine, unless we block it. So, what is our role in this?
To be moons ... without going rogue ... without EVER blocking the light ... to be reflective surfaces that bounce the light of God into the dark corners of the world, especially our particular corner.
The moon, then, in a sense, is a mirror. We are mirrors, reflecting the light and glory of the Son of God.
Good mirrors reflect light without distorting the light. Think of the Fun House in a carnival, that place with all the goofy mirrors that make you look tall or short, thin or wide.
As faithful followers of Jesus we should not distort the light, make it into something it is not. There's no bait and switch. We do not make promises about health or wealth. We only promise a cross ... and a crown. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). In keeping with today’s feast, this is something Our Lady Mary does very well, and we should emulate!
As mirrors, we need polishing and cleaning from time to time. You clean the bathroom mirror, right? Mirrors need cleaning and sometimes polishing.
Here are some excerpts from a report about a certain telescope and its mirror system: "The Giant Magellan Telescope is easily the most ambitious terrestrial astronomy program humanity's ever devised. It has -- quite literally -- been built from the ground up by leveraging a brilliant, unique off-axis design and bleeding-edge fabrication techniques. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the telescope's enormous mirror system. ...”
"It's a very iterative process. We go through 50 to 80 cycles of polishing and measuring. When we measure, we generate a contour map of the errors in the mirror surface. We feed those maps into a computer that controls the polishing tools so that it either spends more time or exerts more pressure on the high spots.”
"It's roughly a year of polishing per mirror. ... We're already beginning work on the second mirror and we're expecting that, once we hit our stride, it will be a year of polishing per segment."
Years of grinding and polishing. Sounds painful. But mirrors, true mirrors, probably just don't "happen."
Mirrors, functioning improperly, can become death rays. This occurs when we misuse the light of Jesus, twist his words and ignore the totality of Scripture. When we do this, our prejudices usually cause injury.
Here's an example of a mirror becoming a "death ray." In London, a new building with a glass exterior was built with a concave shape that led the locals to nickname it the "Walkie Talkie" (because its shape is similar to old walkie-talkies). Martin Lindsay made the mistake of parking his black Jaguar XJ near the building one day and came back to notice that the exterior of the car had melted. Seems that the "Walkie Talkie" was actually more like the laser dish on the Death Star, concentrating the sun's rays on a particular spot on the pavement that made Lindsay's Jag, a panel van, and some pedestrians look like some ants fried with a magnifying glass. A local barbershop reported that its carpet was set on fire by the building's death ray, and the owner of a neighboring Vietnamese restaurant demonstrated what the 196.3-degree beam of light can do by frying an egg for reporters on the front steps of his establishment. Apparently, nobody had bothered to think about what effect sticking a giant concave mirror in the middle of London might have on unsuspecting ants ... er, people. (I didn’t make this up …. Look it up for yourself on the internet!)
Thus, mirrors do not block the light, but reflect it. Robert Fulghum, in his book "It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It," talks about Alexander Papaderos, a teacher of Greek culture, politician, doctor of philosophy and a remarkably complete human being. On the island of Crete, next to the mass graves of Germans and Cretans who fought each other so bitterly in World War II, Papaderos has founded an institute for peace which has become the source of bridge-building between the two countries. What kind of vision motivates a man like Papaderos to transcend the focus on the individual self and dedicate his life to compassion and peace?
"When I was a small child," he said, "during the war we were poor and lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I kept one, the largest piece. ... By scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine -- in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.”
"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became [mature], I grew to understand that this was a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light, truth, understanding, knowledge -- is there, and it will shine in many dark places only if I reflect it."
"I am a fragment of a mirror," Fulghum writes, "whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of the world ... and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise."
So, what does all this I have said today mean? Be a moon. You're not the Son. But, you can reflect His Light.
Let us pray.
That the church will be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
That those who hold public office will imitate the goodness of the Lord, who secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed. We pray to the Lord.
For senior citizens; that God will help them and their needs and be always close to them in his love. We pray to the Lord.
That artist of our time, through their ingenuity, may help everyone discover the beauty of creation. We pray to the Lord.
For the liberation of those were victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, or slave labor. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to trust in the Lord’s mercy even through our torments. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, you watch over each one of us in our troubles. Help us to understand what is Your will, to trust You, and to stay close to You. We ask all these prayers through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.