Saturday, January 4, 2014

Dark Wonder

The word “wonder” seems to have a positive or joyful connotation. A baby discovers his or her hands or feet for the first time and is delighted to find out that he or she can control them (to some extent) and waves them about joyfully.  An older child may experience wonder watching Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz open the farm house door to see the colorful land of Oz for the first time, while the baby that just discovered hands & feet may see the same thing and be filled with wonder just because Dorothy was able to open the door.

Adults will express wonder at other things like the innocence of a child, the beauty of nature, the good deeds of others or just the miracle of living. We are but dust that can be blown away at any instant, and yet we are here and conscious of our very existence! This kind of wonder seems to be one of those uniquely human traits not seen in animals to any extent (sort of like religion). At least I don’t know of any evidence that shows an animal has looked up to the stars, observed the behavior of some other animal, or pondered its own existence and wondered “how?” or “why?”

When my oldest daughter was four she was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz, watching it over and over. One day I told her I had to go to Kansas for work and she asked me a sincere and serious question. The question was, “Will there be color?” (Kansas is always in black & white in the movie). I stood in wonder of her perfectly objective question.

There is another kind of wonder however, that might be call “dark wonder”. How is it that one can fly a plane full of innocent people into a building full of innocent people on an otherwise beautiful September morning? How is it that a person could walk into a school in Newtown CT around Christmas time in 2012 and randomly shoot children? How is it that a tornado can fall out of the sky in Washington, IL one Sunday afternoon in November of 2013 and carry people off to their death? What awaits us in 2014? We may wonder with a dark wonder.

Whatever we wonder about, we should take heart that wonder leads us to “seek”, opens our hearts and makes an answer possible for us; wonder leads to knowledge. Since the mind is made for infinite truth, it tends to move in that direction if there is nothing to stop it, so it is possible for any dark wonder you may have experienced in 2013 to become a wonder of light. Darkness always becomes a kind of light whenever it helps you to see.

Once a soul basks in the light of God’s presence (beatific vision), he or she may come to know that the death of a person may have been a rescue of some great evil had they lived. A painful romantic breakup may have been salvation from an unhappy marriage. The loss of wealth may have meant saving your soul from eternal loss. If you were blind and then you got your sight back, even the ugliest things would be appreciated.

Catholics may wonder how, after all the graces we receive from God in the Eucharist, reconciliation and other sacraments, not to mention all the actual graces from everyday blessings, can we still be so faulty and faltering? When we feel depressed by our faults and the faults of others, let us marvel at the Saints who were all just sinners that never gave up trying to be better. Let us be filled with wonder and praise that our God can forgive us so much.  

The following reflection is certainly appropriate for the wonder of the Epiphany and the New Year ahead of us.

Star of Wonder
“O Emmanuel, may the assurance of your unfailing presence be for me the source of unending peace. May I never fear my weakness, my inadequacy, or my imperfection.  Rather, as I gaze with faith, hope and love upon your incarnate littleness, may I love my own littleness, for God is with us. Endow my life with a holy wonder that leads me ever more deeply into the Mystery of the Redemption and the meaning of my vocation and destiny.” – Fr. Peter John Cameron

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