By Ricardo Marquez
What would have happened if the Three Wise Men had an iPhone or Android phone in their pockets? Surely, they would not have become aware of what was happening in the heavens, would not have seen the star that shined so brightly. They would have missed out on the extraordinary moment of meeting Jesus, Joseph and Mary.
Wherever you put your attention, your gaze, that’s where your interests, your wishes and your heart is. What can happen when we spend long hours focused on a small screen? We’re familiar with the answer: sedentarism, obesity, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety and more. Mental and emotional disturbances have increased during the pandemic.
The need to be listened to, to be close to and embrace someone is increasingly noticeable. It’s not unusual to hear this when we embrace someone, “It’s been such a long time since I hugged anyone.” This crisis is underscoring what we’re missing, what we need, the details that matter most.
To lift our gaze upwards, away from a screen to look at the heavens, has an inspiring significance. Not to leave reality behind, but rather to return to it with new eyes, eyes that after contemplating the grandeur and vastness of “what’s above” return to view “what’s inside” with admiration because what’s in the heavens is inside of us, that same grandeur of the stars and galaxies is reflected in our body, in each cell, in our eyes, in the human brain. It’s in that movement of gazing up and returning to our interior that we gather strength and renew hope.
The light that’s above illuminates, allowing us to see human possibilities. The Gospel tells us that on the cusp of special moments in His life, Jesus raises His eyes to the heavens (John 11:41, John 17:1), drawing inspiration and strength from His Father, the Creator.
In January, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, what occurred when kings and astrologers from a foreign culture gazed upon a star with a special brightness in the sky. They had a revelation, a spark, and the grace to know intuitively that something special was happening and that the star would guide them to its origin. They set forth, arriving where Jesus was born, encountering Him and “adoring” Him. That’s what the Greek word “epiphaneia” means, the appearance or manifestation of reality.
Today, we ask the Lord, in our moments of silence, of contemplation and prayer, for our eyes to see what lies beyond cell phone screens, up in the sky, toward the immensity, beauty and grandeur of creation. And in doing so, to renew our hope, to see with new eyes the importance of the small details in our daily life – the hugs, the smiles, the tenderness – that illuminate and renew our desire to live to serve.
Let’s go out these days as a family to the park, to see the butterflies and birds, to see the sunsets and the stars. Let’s share stories around the dinner table, surprise a homeless person with food or a lonely senior with a visit. These will be “stellar” moments, luminous events that will take us to encounter what is great in each of us, to God who was born and lives within us. That’s when we will have our “Epiphany,” and begin to raise our eyes more often to the heavens to give thanks, and to be aware of being “one with Him.”
Ricardo Marquez is associate director of the Diocese of San Diego’s Office for Family Life and Spirituality.