Look up in order to follow the star


One of the greatest writers during the Renaissance period was Dante Alighieri. After his exile from Florence, he ended up in Ravenna where he wrote his greatest masterpiece, “The Divine Comedy.” He takes the reader on a poetic and theological journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, where various historical figures are encountered. As they enter through the Gate of Hell, from which no one can escape, Dante spies a group of souls that belonged neither to Hell or Heaven, but rather were spiritually neutral during life. These souls were those who lived without praise, without blame. They are mixed in with the despised choir of angels, those not rebellious, not faithful to God, but for themselves. Heaven drove them out — to maintain its beauty — and deep Hell does not accept them, lest the evil have glory over them. Dante disdains moral neutrality to such a degree that he conceives of a group that is neither good enough to be admitted to Heaven nor evil enough to be admitted to Hell.

An interesting characteristic about this group was that they all were forced to follow a fleeting banner that seemed to have no cause or purpose, which was a reflection of their own lives, never standing up for anything, never looking to heaven, but following blindly their passions. This same behavior is often noticed today when people are glued to their cell phones, tablets or other various electronic devices, always looking down at them, distracted and totally oblivious to the world around them. Pope Francis in his Epiphany homily mentioned that people sometimes choose stars that do not lead them to peace and joy because of selfish motives. In today’s society, we need to learn to put down those devices/banners that lead us around and stop to look up like the three wise men did in order to see heaven, lest we suffer the fate of those who are perpetually led about by their passions.