Filters of life

I found it rather ironic that the sunglasses I bought from Two Blind Brothers could allow me to see what I hadn’t before. 

After seeing so many advertisements from Two Blind Brothers and needing a new pair of sunglasses, I decided to give them a try. I wore my new shades the same day I received them and after getting into my car, I thought there was something odd about my windows. The windshield was fine, but when I looked a certain way through the side windows, I could see a web of darker tinting in the glass. I kept looking back and forth between the two trying to figure out what was happening. I then looked over the sunglasses and the pattern disappeared! Hmmmmm… Something in the sunglasses was enabling me to see what isn’t usually visible — the unique properties of the glass used in car doors, perhaps the treatment they use to resist shattering upon impact. 

I’m sure the automakers do not intend for drivers to see how safety glass is made; all that matters is that it works. Seeing the pattern did not enhance my safety nor cause distraction. Yet I can’t help but wonder: what else am I missing; what am I not seeing? I think it’s common enough for us to think our vision is good, that we don’t need any correction; or for those of us who do require corrective lenses, they are enough. But blindness can be far more than lack of physical sight, it can also be a lack of perception in our relationships with family and friends, in our workplace, as well as our relationship with God.

For about 180 days, I’ve heard Fr. Mike Schmitz begin the Bible in a Year podcast saying, “we encounter God’s voice and live life through the lens of Scripture.” The story of salvation is not a collection of bedtime stories about ancient people, but rather a how-to manual for life. Our relationship with God affects our relationships with others. When we learn to trust in God, we are richly blessed and bring blessings to others. If we treat the Bible like any other book, expecting to read it cover to cover, it can be confusing and intimidating since it’s not just a book, but a library of books. When we understand that the different books were written for specific audiences and particular purposes, the story of salvation unfolds in a uniquely personal way. St. Jerome remarked, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” From Catholic Study Bibles, containing commentaries and a plethora of footnotes, to Bible studies like Walking with a Purpose, to the Bible in a Year podcast, there are many ways we can pursue getting to know God better. It’s not only about reading the words or listening to the stories, but finding out more about the book, the time period, and the people that brings the Bible alive! Diving deeper into the Scriptures allows us to put on different filters or perspectives, seeing not just how much God loves Israel, but how He loves us, even in the chaos of our own times. 

The first step can sometimes be the hardest: acknowledging that our perspective is limited. However, with prayerful guidance of the Holy Spirit when we make it a priority to seek out God through the Scriptures, we will be rewarded, not just with blessings on earth, but with a vision of the Kingdom more lovely than anything we can ever see within creation.

Into the unknown

This holiday season is unlike any before it. Then again, depending on your age, there are only so many that you’ve experienced. For two millennia we’ve been celebrating events that were unremarkable in their day yet changed the world forever.

Sometimes the Bible includes details that we gloss over or don’t think are important, but other times the details leave us wanting to know more. For example, it’s approximately 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem and walking that journey took about a week. It would have been dangerous for the couple to walk that far by themselves. Most movies would have you think they were the only ones traveling for the census. However, if both Joseph & Mary were from the line of David, wouldn’t their relatives in Nazareth also need to travel to Bethlehem? Even if Joseph and Mary had no other immediate relatives who were making the journey, they probably joined up with a caravan of others making the trip, if not to Bethlehem, then to other towns in that direction. 

In this age of data, we want to know the facts by the numbers. Just how far along was Mary in her pregnancy when she had to travel? Was she in her last month? Or was earlier than that? According to The Data Administration Newsletter, the census was taken on one specific day throughout the empire for accuracy. We don’t know if the census process had already occurred and Mary was too late into her pregnancy for the arduous trip back to Nazareth or if Jesus’ birth occurred before the day of the census. But in the grand scheme of things, the only thing that matters about the census & the trip is the result of the Savior’s birth in the city of David. 

We don’t know if Mary knew that her Son would be born in Bethlehem. Perhaps they anticipated they would be back in Nazareth in plenty of time beforehand. Or was that journey a giant question mark of what was going to happen next? While Mary & Joseph knew their destination, the events of that journey may not have been what they expected, if they even had expectations. Mary believed in God and His promises. She also trusted Joseph. And Joseph allowed God to lead him. Perhaps as we enter into this season of Advent, we ask Mary & Joseph to increase our belief in God and trust Him to lead us into the future filled with the unknown.