Photo: Courtesy of Jesuit Refugee Service – used with permission
Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6, Matthew 2:1-12
HAPPY FEAST of the EPIPHANY! In some cultures, the Epiphany is as major a feast as is Christmas. The arrival of the Magi celebrates that the Word became flesh for Gentiles as well as the Chosen People, in fact, for ALL peoples and creation.
But Epiphany, for others, is also time to take down the Christmas tree, put away the lights and ornaments and recycle cards. But the truth of God-with-us must not be put away and forgotten until next year. Like Mary, we must plunge the truth of the Incarnate Word deep into our hearts, ponder it, and let it make a difference in every day that follows. Encountering the Mystery of a new kind of vulnerable king, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, these WISE men “went back to their country a different way,” says Matthew. And what does that mean for each of us as we move into 2021?
Take your last good look at that sweet babe for he’s going to be 30 next week, baptized and thrust into his mission and ministry very quickly. There’s a time to look and ponder such love; then reciprocal love urges response! Yet the words of Isaiah years ago ring true today: “Darkness covers the Earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples.” It seems to many of us as though some demonic power has been let loose on our poor planet Earth, our nation and our world, with its hatred, violence, greed and self-centeredness. Thirteen incidents of anti-Semitism in NY alone during Hanukkah; assassination of Iran’s military leader and now threat of retaliation; terrible fires in Australia; divisions and distrust in our nation regarding Impeachment. Truly, “Darkness covers the Earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; BUT,” Isaiah continues, “upon you the Lord shines.”
Darkness and evil is not new. Matthew tells us that Herod was troubled. We know that he lied, was fearful, insecure, power driven, cruel and violent, to the point of having babies torn from their mothers. The culture into which Jesus was born was violent, rife with conflict and anxiety. As he grew, however, he also knew that God was at work in it. Jesus asked us to have faith, to believe that the reign of God is among us and within us.
As John tells us: “What has come into being in Jesus was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” So we’re back to EPIPHANY! The Light leading the Wise men who knew themselves, were secure, searched for truth, unafraid to set out for the unknown, attentive to dreams, — and who did not return to the darkness of Herod’s environs. Moved by the Light and Love energy of their encounter with the newborn, they went back home a different way, themselves now different.
Scripture tells us that we are children of the Light. We are each uniquely made in the image and likeness of God, with that very Divine light and love at the core of our being. Coming to an awareness of our identity in God demands courage. So does discipleship. Ponder it! Claim it! Act upon it!
With the challenging times ahead of us, assured of the truth of God-with-us, and embracing the truth that we are the Body of Christ for these times, each must decide how, by the grace of God, we are called to be “bearers and recipients of God’s Love, co-creators of God’s justice and peace” in 2020.
And these Wise women and men also came to the crib and to the altar with their gift, and they went, as wise women and men do, home a different way.
Joan Delaplane, O.P.