“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you….” Ephesians 1:18
When I was an elementary school student in Westchester County, NY, where I lived for 9 years as a child, I had my own daily subscription to the New York Herald Tribune. It was delivered to me at my school each and every weekday. So, at an early age, I learned the pleasures of reading the newspaper.
No matter how hard I try to get with digital editions of newspapers, I still prefer reading the printed page, over which I can scan my eyes all over the page or pages to find and read what interests me. It’s harder to do that when you have to hit a link for each article to show up.
One of my favorite things to do is to read newspapers from other cities and countries. When friends ask if there is something they can pick up for me on their overseas trips, I usually say, “please, bring a newspaper.” Most of the papers are in languages I can read or at least muddle through. Once, however, when I was a teenager, my father returning from a business trip bought me a Turkish paper that I was unable to read; I just looked at the pictures.
Now, of course, most newspapers from around the world can be read online. I look at the New York Times and the Washington Post nearly every day. But at night, some time before bed, I regularly look at online editions of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Zürich), Die Zeit (Hamburg), Le Monde and Le Figaro (Paris), The Irish Times (Dublin), Frankfurter Allgemeine (Frankfurt), Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), The Guardian (Manchester), The Daily Telegraph (London), and The Independent (UK), along with a few papers in languages that I do not read much at all but enjoy for the challenge of parsing out the language. These include papers from Italy, Holland, and Sweden.
I’m sure that reading newspapers from around the world is a form of vicarious travel but I think it is much more than that.
The novelty of the new and the difference in perspectives is something I value. What seems so important to daily life in the metropolitan Washington, D. C. area isn’t even mentioned in the Boston, Chicago, or London papers.
At the same time, it is a chance to see that everyone doesn’t see the world just the way I do or the way most Americans do. It opens our eyes and widens our perspectives. We need that sometimes because it is so hard to get out of one’s own narrow view of things. Different perspectives challenge us to think again about our ideas, our cherished notions of how things work.
Newspapers report the context of our daily life. They often focus on things that terrify us, from acts of terrorism and violent crime to natural disasters and human frailty and corruption. There also are many heart-warming stories of human self-giving, sharing, and understanding.
When you read the papers from around the world, it becomes apparent that we all share a few things. We share the earth and we share a need for meaning and purpose.
Sometimes when we read the news it is difficult to discern the presence of God in it. There is so much bad news. While helping the newspapers sell subscriptions, reading the news can at times be pretty depressing. It may be difficult for us to recognize the epiphanies or manifestations of God in our world.* That may be because we may be looking in the wrong places. The epiphanies of God that occur in the lives of individuals and are easy to miss. St. Paul’s prayer for his fellow Christians is that “our inner eyes may be enlightened” so that we will be able to see the marvelous grace of God at work in the world. As we read or hear the news, we too may need to pray that our inner eyes be opened so that we may see the manifestations of God in our midst and trust in the hope to which God has called us.
With your eyes opened, who knows what you might see?
*In the season of Epiphany, we tell the story of the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world, first to his own people and then to all the nations, that is, to the Gentiles.