Sunday, January 5, 2014

See it and be it

Today the Church celebrates the Epiphany, the manifestation of the presence of God in the world. In Matthew's gospel the world is represented by the Magi. How many are there? The Bible doesn't say. It simply says "magoi." In the west we have traditionally referred to three, one for each gift. In eastern Christianity, there are by some accounts 12, to parallel the 12 tribes of Israel. In the end it doesn't matter.

What matters is what they represent, the desire not to limit himself to one chosen people, but to spread the good news to the ends of the earth. In the words of today's psalm

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you

And in fact we have managed to spread the Christian faith to one degree or another to every corner of the earth. But this does not mean we can sit back and relax.

Everyone of us by our baptism is a missionary. We are sent out at the end of mass to proclaim the good news. The new dismissal

Go in Peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

This is seems to me to be a two stage process.

Stage One: if I believe the promise of Jesus "and know that I am with you always", if I believe Emmanuel -God with us, If I believe "Heaven and earth are full of your glory", then no matter where I am I should be able to see with eyes of faith the manifestations of the presence of God. Kneeling in Church, driving on I-95, or sitting alone in my room with the eyes of faith there is always epiphany.

Stage Two: Along with seeing the presence of God, I must be the presence of God. From the moment we receive the Holy Spirit in baptism, we have the responsibility to be the Epiphany, to be as St. Paul calls us in the second reading "sussoma", literally the same body. We are the body parts and as such we must be that physical, manifestation of Christ to others. Our words our actions, not just sometimes when we feel like it, not just to our friends and family, but our every word and action should be a manifestation of Christ's love.

That isn't as sweet as it sounds. While most of the time this will involve even small gestures, little kindnesses, as simple as a smile. Other times it will involve the hard part.

The one gift Isaiah left out of his prophecy was the myrrh, the symbol that points forward to the crucifixion. Sometimes being the epiphany,being the manifestation of God's love, means looking your best friend right in the face and saying, "You're screwing up your life." We should always do it with love, but sometimes we must risk rejection, and anger, and even loss, it we are to be true to the gospel.

We are one week from the end of Christmas. In this last week of Christmas, I would invite you every day to look for the epiphanies, the signs of the presence of God. And every day look for an opportunity to be the epiphany, the manifestation of God's loving presence to someone else, and not just friends and family.