Monday, January 6, 2014

Greetings fellow- journeyers after the star, and Happy Epiphany!

All kinds of stories have been told about the Magi. The Christian centuries have passed on their names and homelands, something about their background and what happened after they left Bethlehem. There was even a story about a fourth Magi who got to Jesus only in time to see him hanging on the cross.

However charming or gripping these stories might be, they are stories. We know almost nothing about the personal lives of the Magi. Neither are these stories the substance of Epiphany. Read the story on your own (Matthew 2.1-12). Walk along with the Magi. Stand with them before Herod. Go with them to the house where Jesus can be found.

For now, we want to focus on what the magi symbolize for us in the human search for God. Like the Magi, we wonder where God is to be found in our life and in our world, as if it is up to us alone to find God.

We try to discover God’s purpose and make it our own. We puzzle over how best to use our gifts in helping the reign of God to happen fully. There may be long periods in our life when the directions are not clear – but like the Magi, we find companions with whom to share the journey –strangers or acquaintances, and sometimes friends, with whom we can talk about things that really matter. We, too, if we are wise, ask others for their insights and seek out spiritual guides to see us on our way.

We have our own epiphanies – times when we recognize the revelation of God in some ordinary or surprising moment. Sometimes, there are only the faintest signs, like a star against a night sky – but as TS Eliot reminds us

‘The hint half guessed,
the gift half understood
is Incarnation.”

If Epiphany is the feast of the human search for God, it is also the feast of finding God. Epiphany assures us that God can be found – wants to be found, wants to be revealed to us. God is always the end of our journey.

Epiphany is the feast of the impractical. Practical people don’t just drop everything and set out as the Magi did on a journey so lacking in clarity. But people with an openness to God do that.

Epiphany is the feast of the unexpected: God calling the Gentiles to be co-heirs with the Jews, as Paul says  in the second reading for the feast. Who would have thought it?
God is for everyone- Jew and Gentile, women and men, prisoners and the free, the young, the old, the embattled, the peaceful. God is for Pope Francis, for Syrians and South Sudanese, for infants and the dying, for you and me, for all we love and for all we don’t.

Go out the first night this week that the sky is clear and the stars are visible. Look up! And thank God for including us among the Magi.
~Joan Sobala, SSJ