Monday, December 17, 2012

5 Tips for seeing a shooting star this Advent (Where is God in the Connecticut Shooting?)



Have you ever seen a shooting star?  Every year in December the Germid Meteor Shower streams through the winter Sky with a fantastic show.  I was at a parishioner’s house for dinner and after dinner our guests took us out to see the stars.  Unfortunately, it was a cloudy night and we were in Downtown Lorain, so there was a lot of light pollution.  The only visible “star” was the planet “Jupiter.”  While we were looking for stars these questions were asked... ‘Where are they?  How can we see them?  Where do we look?”  So I Googled it and here’s what I got!  These 5 tips for seeing a shooting star are very appropriate for Advent as well as we search and seek for Christ.  

5 Tips for Seeing a Shooting Star.  

1) Dark skies away from the glare of city lights are important, even on a moonlit night.  For optimum viewing, find a place to observe in the country.

 

The Truth is if we want to see a shooting star, we have to go into darkness.  The same is true for us in the Spiritual Life.  If we want to see a shooting star we have to go into darkness.  Have you spent some time in darkness this lent?  Have you gotten away from all the distractions, lights, noise, and craziness and spent some time in darkness and silence?  We can and should take ourselves away during Advent and spend some time in darkness.  

Sometimes we don’t go willingly into darkness, but we are plunged into it.  I believe that the Events on Friday morning in Connecticut have plunged our country once more into darkness.  The horrific shooting that happened early Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut became such a bloody scene that survivors were escorted out of the building being commanded to keep their eyes closed.  Just 10 days before Christmas 10 children, 12 girls and eight boys, all of them 6 or 7 years old — were shot as many as 11 times, H. Wayne Carver, the state medical examiner, said Saturday. It appeared that Lanza had enough weapons and ammunition with him to have killed many, many more.  In a matter of minutes a young man killed 26 people and his own life as well... in those moments, hearts would be forever torn and families would be shocked into the worst news a parent could ever hear.  






Once parishioner mentioned to me that the parents had probably already bought and wrapped the gifts for their children and these gifts would go unopened on Christmas morning.  


Many wonder and ask “Where is God in this?”  “How could God let this happen?”  “Is there a God, if things like this happen?”  The truth is... just as with shooting stars, God can actually be seen more clearly in the darkness.  

The father of Emilee Parker a six year old child killed in the shooting was interviewed just days after the shooting.  This man, who experienced what no father ever should, is able to see God very clearly in the darkness.  
“First of all I’d really like to offer our deepest condolences to all of the families who were directly affected by this shooting.  It is a horrific tragedy and we want everyone to know that our hearts and our prayers goes out to them, this includes the family of the shooter.  "I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well,"  

My daughter Emilee would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving her love and support to all those victims, because that is the type of the person that she is.  Not because of any parenting that my wife and I could have done, but because those were the gifts that were given to her by her heavenly father.  As the deep pain begins to settle into our hearts we find comfort reflecting on the incredible person that Emilee was, and how many lives that she was able to touch in her short time here on earth.  Emilee was bright creative and very loving.  Emilee was always willing to try new things, other than food...

Emilee was a mentor to her to little sisters... her laughter was infectious... this world was a better place because she was in it.  As we move on from what happened here....what happened to so many people let it not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate, and more humble people.  let us please keep the sentiments of love that we feel for our families and the compassion that we feel for others, even complete strangers, and keep them with us at all times, and not just in times of sorrow or tragedy and may we do this so that we can better all of our communities and all of our cities and all of our states so that we can make everyone everywhere in this country feel safe.  

The last time I was with Emilee, I was leaving to work and she actually woke up before I left.  I’ve been teaching her Portuguese.  She asked how I was doing and I said that I was doing well and she said that she loved me and I gave her a kiss and I was out the door.  

The person that chose to act this way acted with a God given right of free agency.  I know that that is something that he was given and that was what he chose to do with it.  I’m not mad because I have my agency to use this event to do what I can and whatever I can to make sure that my family my wife and my daughters are taken care of and if there is anything that I can do to help anyone anytime anywhere (I’m there for you).”  


If we want to see a shooting star, darkness doesn’t prevent us; rather darkness actually helps us to see the bright and shining star.  Darkness is essential to seeing the light.  Spend some time in Darkness if you want to find Christ this Advent.  

2) The 2012 Geminid meteor shower will be better if you let your eyes adapt to the dark. Sometimes that takes as long as twenty minutes. So give yourself at least an hour of viewing time. The most Geminids usually fall in the wee hours after midnight centered around 2 a.m. local time. That time hold true no matter your time zone.

 


The second tip helps us to see that it does take time for our eyes to adjust to the dark... sometimes it takes as long as “Twenty Minutes!”  If this is true for our natural eyes, it is truer for our spiritual eyes.  It takes considerable time for our “eyes” our “heart” and our “soul” to adjust to the darkness.  

Often time’s people will come to me and say: “Father, I pray, I talk to God, but I’m just not hearing anything, I just don’t feel His presence.”  I’ll ask them... “Tell me about your prayer?”  And often they will respond by saying, well I talk to God while I’m driving, or before I go to bed I say my prayers maybe an “Our Father” and a “Hail Mary.”  And I help them to realize that the likelihood of us hearing God in a matter of minutes when we are doing the talking is highly unlikely.  We need to spend a considerable time in Darkness and in Silence before our spiritual “eyes” and “ears” even begin to adjust to the dark and silence.  

When you pray daily how much time do you spend?  Do you allow for at least 20 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark?  The Saints and Mystics have traditionally called for a Holy Hour every day.  The wisdom to the Holy Hour is that it allows for this time of “adjusting” to the Dark.  Maybe during these last days of Advent you could consider making a Holy Hour and allowing yourself considerable time to let your “eyes” adjust to the dark.  You may be surprised that you see a “shooting star” and God does appear to you.

3) The best way to watch meteors is to bring along a buddy. Both of you watch different parts of the sky. If one of you sees one, shout out “meteor!” If you don’t know which way to look, don’t worry. Just let your eyes rove casually in all parts of the sky.

 

The third point helps us realize the importance of community and friendship.  Do you have a spiritual friend that you pray with and share with?  The truth is that we were never supposed to do this alone.  God promises that “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Many people will ask me:  “Why do I have to go to mass on Sunday?”  Well the truth is that it is easier for us to see a shooting star if we are together and it is easier for us to see God in the darkness if we are together.  That is the importance in coming together as a father community.  When we gather together we actually help each other to see God.  

One of the darkness’s that is very hard for us to enter into is our sin.  The same thing is often said to me about confession.  “Father, why do I need to go to confession?  Can’t I just talk to God in my head?”  “Well, yes, you can, but God doesn’t want you to have to face and carry that sin alone... God wants to be there with you so that you can see Him in His priests, so that you can hear his voice say “I absolve you from your sins” and feel His Hands lay on your head.  You do not need to bare your sin alone and no matter how hard you try, you can never make your sin disappear or hear God absolve you... you were never meant to do it alone.  That is why we have been given this wonderful Sacrament of Confession.  Have you been to confession this Advent Season?  If it has been more than a year you are due.  The 2nd Precept of the Church is “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”  If you need a refresher you can review it here on my blog:  http://fathermichaeldenk.blogspot.com/p/confession.html and if it has been many years, and you are very nervous, just say to the priest:  “Father it’s been years since my last confession, I don’t know what I’m doing, can you help me out?”  Trust me, not only will God be delighted to have you back, but the priest will as well.  “When he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy6and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” (Luke 15:6)

If you have a friend in the spiritual life it is much easier to see a shooting star and to see the Face of God.

4) Special equipment? Not necessary. You only need a dark sky, a reclining lawn chair and the warmth of a sleeping bag. A hot drink is also good. Just remember. Watching a meteor shower is not like turning on the television. You can’t expect to just look out the window, or simply step outside to see meteors. Your eyes take some 20 minutes to dark-adapt. If you’re serious about it, give yourself at least an hour of viewing time. Even the best meteor showers have lulls and spurts.

 

The fourth tip helps us to see that special equipment is not necessary for the spiritual life; as a matter of fact having extra equipment actually gets in our way from seeing God.  In today’s Gospel the disciples of John the Baptist are seeking Christ and they ask John:
"What should we do?"
He said to them in reply,
"Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise."

So very practically, do you have two coats in your closet?  If so, give one away.  John says very clearly that if we want to see God we cannot have excess.  St. Basil in His Sermon to the Rich says: “You with a second coat in your closet, it does not belong to you. You have stolen it from the poor man who is shivering in the cold.”  Think about the clothes in your closet.  Do you have more than you need?  Often times Christmas time becomes a time of us wanting more and more, but the key to Christmas and the key to Seeing God is to give it away.  There are many ways to do this in your own community.  If your parish has a giving tree, or a winter coat or blanket collection consider giving your extras away.  You could also consider tithing at the end of the year, give 10% of everything that you made to charitable organizations, or maybe even give away any extra that you do have. 
We do not need special equipment to see Christ, in reality if we have any excess it will be harder to see him.  Do you have excess?

5) As a wise man once said, meteor watching is a lot like fishing. You go outside. You enjoy nature all around you. You hope you catch some!
This is the greatest part of Advent, just like fishing or trying to see a shooting star, enjoy the nature all around you.   On the day that you were baptized you were immersed in the Holy Spirit.  That means God is in you and all around you.  You live in this life of grace.  Part of the joy is in the searching.  Enjoy this life that God has given to you, enjoy the people around you, and trust that if “you seek, you will find.”  (Matthew 7:7)

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