Happy New Year and new decade! The number ‘2020’ at times denotes clear vision rather than a calendar year. The American Optometric Association states, “20/20 vision does not necessarily mean you have perfect vision. It only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance.” In terms of our faith in God, how sharp is my vision? Is my vision guided by the perfect lens of God? What is clear to me? What needs refinement? Do I have tunnel-vision? Is the peripheral view seeing that which surrounds me? 

The liturgical focus during the final days of the Christmas season points to the Epiphany of the Lord, followed a week later by the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Both celebrations help establish foundations of our faith’s “visual acuity” on this pilgrim journey. 

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

Light from light 

The brighter the light, the sharper the vision. The sharper the vision, the clearer the path. Light is necessary when walking a dark path since it serves as a guide for our steps, steers us away from obstacles, wrong turns and creepy critters. We also need light for our faith. What is the source of light for our faith?  

The prophet Isaiah describes the radiant light of the glory of the Lord which pierces the darkness of the earth and illumines a passage for nations and kings to travel. Moreover, the radiance of God shines from those who behold it with their own eyes. The faithful beam with glory while offering praise from the depths of their hearts. Their eyes are raised in the splendor of the Lord. Hence, the source of light for our faith is the glory of God.  

Guided by the light  

From this light comes the true light that draws us nearer to God. In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear of a guiding light, represented by a unique star that captures the sight of the eyes of three magi, men like modern-day astronomers. Aware of the prophecies foretold of the expectation of a messiah, they respond to the heavenly star fixed in the firmament and follow the illumined sky which leads them to Jesus. It is in this face-to-face encounter they come to know, to pay homage and to believe. St. John Chrysostom writes in his homily in St. Matthew, 7, “God calls them by means of the things they are most familiar with; and he shows them a large and extraordinary star so that they would be impressed by its size and beauty.” God guided them through their regular occupation to find the Messiah, the promised one, our true light. 

We too have a star to discover, “a light and a guide in the sky of our soul. We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him. We have had the same experience. We also noticed a new light shining in our soul and growing increasingly brighter. It is a desire to live a fully Christian life.” (St. Jose’ Maria Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 32) By this encounter we are radically transformed into the life of Christ.  

What star is guiding my path? How is God calling me in my ordinary life to meet him? Where do I desire increased light to overcome the obstacles? Have I taken a wrong turn in the darkness? Am I making my way along the path illumined by the light of Christ? What gifts am I placing at the feet of Jesus in order to serve him and those he places on the path? Am I publicly giving God special honor and respect as a living witness of Christ by regularly worshipping in Mass, performing works of mercy, learning the faith, living the Ten Commandments and praying? 

 Baptism: Visual acuity  

There are no details of Jesus’ life between his presentation in the temple and his baptism. The ordinary years were seemingly typical as a Jewish family of the time. His extraordinary mission was happening but had yet to be revealed until, at the age of 30, when he asked John to baptize him. John hesitated since he recognized Jesus as the Messiah and one without sin. Yet, Jesus asked for the allowance. Once plunged into the waters of  the Jordan River, Jesus opened the eternal pathway for us into his life. As he drew breath above the waters the Holy Spirit descended “like a dove” as the voice of God clearly identified his son (Mt 3:16-17).  

Baptism is “the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word. Having received in baptism the word, the true light that enlightens every man, the person baptized has been enlightened, he becomes a son of light, indeed, he becomes light himself …” (Catechism #1213-1216)  

Baptism is the visual acuity of life in Christ. Commanded by Jesus, (Mt 28:19) baptism configures our faith to a sharp 20/20 vision. It establishes the foundation by which we see with the eyes of Jesus and respond by that same clarity in what we think, do and say. The clarity remains strong as we become filled with endless rays incoming to know God through intentional catechesis. Consequently, this radiance beams into missionary service and care for others.  

A clear vision for 2020 begins with a simple eye exam. Look through the lens of faith with the eyes of Jesus Christ. What needs clarity? What is my mission this year? What knowledge can I grow from? What challenges am I facing because of my faith? Can I defend the faith when challenged by others? How about my prayer life? Am I talking and listening to God? Do I have time to kneel before Jesus, fully present in the Blessed Sacrament? What area churches have adoration chapels? Do I have a smudge on my lens? Is it time to make a good confession? When are confessions heard at my church to ask for forgiveness for my sins and receive the merciful grace of God?  

As we begin anew in 2020, resolve to embrace a newness of faith. Put on the lens of God: sharp, merciful and kind, filled with joyful hope, unwavering faith and radical love. It is amazing how clear we can see when our vision is guided by faith. Happy New Year! May God fill you with his eternal peace. Amen.  

Dow is director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.