The Epiphany of the Lord - The Lessons of Christmas

2018 was another year of turmoil:  for the world community and for the Church at large.
In the world community, we still face the good, the bad and the ugly. We point to the terrible evils that exist in our world:  the destructive powers of suffering and death that are experienced from the forces of war and of nature ...and even more significantly, the inexplicable injustices and inhumanity that exist within mankind itself:  the continued rise of a new and horrific force of terrorism and the seeming ineffective efforst to end it; the continuing exploitation of the poor and the marginalized in society, and the frightful inequalities in our society based on race or color or sex.  How does one find the saving presence of God in the midst of such a world?  What can we do as individuals and communities to stop the madness?
It was a year of turmoil for the Church as well, much of which still lingers within our hearts and souls from years past, and only seems to be getting worse. We are still in the midst of crisis: a lack of faith in our leadership, the continuing public exposure of clergy abuse, the misuse of ecclesiastical power, and the ruin of the careers, the ministries and the lives of many. As parishes and schools are closed or merged, calls from the laity for a stronger voice in the life of the Church are met with fear and apprehension - in many instances with rejection. Our people – and now, even our leadership, continue to be polarized into separate camps.  How does one find unity and communion in the midst of such chaos?

It is difficult for the Light of Christ to shine through this kind of atmosphere and we might well be tempted to look around as we begin this New Year and ask: "Why bother?" But in the final analysis, we know that we are all responsible for the stewardship of the gifts God has given us.

The Christmas season comes to an end much more quickly than all of our preparations for its arrival. So we need to reflect over and over again about the lessons we are taught at Christmas.  We can be so easily misled in our search for God; we look for miracles, for visions, for extraordinary manifestations.
It may seem that the presence of God is hidden amid the brokenness of the world, yet He continues to reveal Himself in very ordinary ways:  in the quiet courage of those who suffer patiently; in the manifest heroism of those who risk - and sometimes lose - their lives to save others; in the vigilance of those who defend our land and our values; in the gentle compassion of those who seek out the poor and the hungry; in the day by day faithfulness of spouses, of workers, of leaders, of scientists, of advocates of all kinds, in all segments of our society.
We do not always understand where God is leading us. We frequently wonder why certain things happen, why evil seems so powerful, why tragedy befalls the innocent - or even why our own plans don't work out. There are moments when we are tempted to think that our faith in Him has been betrayed, that He really has forsaken us and is not listening or caring any more. We feel like giving up; we want to stop praying.  Yet, we continue to search.
The Epiphany reminds us that God manifests Himself to us in the most unforeseen and unexpected circumstances. This feast of the Epiphany arose early on in the Church to fill out the meaning of Christmas. It was the feast to celebrate the manifestation of the Incarnation to the whole universe. It embraced the fuller dimensions of the role of the Word-made-flesh - His coming to bring the nations together in peace, His coming to reveal the Father, His coming to change almost miraculously the quality of life for all people.
This is the time for new beginnings and resolutions - for a fresh start. Let's get back to basics for our resolutions. It is time to stop talking about how much we love one another and to really start showing that we do - and to continue to do so. Only then will we be able to tear apart the barriers that separate us, and come together as the family that God meant us to be. Only then can we truly be a people of hope within whom the Spirit lives and breathes.
For those of us who leave the familiar and follow a distant light we may find ourselves in a place we never would have imagined going. There we will meet the divine—but in disguise, of course. For the Magi it was the infant in the crib. For us, the journey may take us to an entirely new place - one whose path may take a sudden change from our planned direction, toward a light that will never disappoint in any darkness we will encounter. 
No matter who we are or the circumstances of our lives, the journey we are on guarantees we will encounter change—constant change. We know it is futile to try to cling to what has been or even what we now have. 
The Good News of Christmas and Epiphany is "Emmanuel", "God-with-us!"
So, today we ask God to shake us out of our religious complacency and, like the Magi, stir up a hunger for God within us. 
  • Ask God for the courage to let go of the comfortable and familiar and plead for the  energy to once again go looking for Him. 
  • Ask to be open to finding the holy in unfamiliar and “unholy” places. Ask for forgiveness for accepting what is immediately around us and for being satisfied with the status quo. 
  • Ask for the grace not to be disappointed when God isn’t found in the routine of familiar prayers and predictable ritual. 
  • Ask for a sense of wonder and awe in the little things of life that contain the spark of the divine. 
  • Ask for the spirit of a searcher, one willing to look up and follow a star beyond familiar borders. 
  • Ask to be able to put aside barriers that keep us apart from “the others”. 
  • Ask for the help to recognize the revelation of God, despite all appearances to the contrary. 
Ask for an Epiphany.