by Fr. Ben Hawley, S.J.
January 8. The Solemnity of the Epiphany. The wise men. The angry king. The slain babies. The flight into Egypt.
The Epiphany presents us one moment within the epic narrative of Salvation History. Each of these moments invites us to enter more deeply into the grand narrative and to appreciate more deeply our unique role in this narrative.
Let's take a closer look.
First, the Epiphany story reminds us that, if we wish to be wise, we must be seekers after the Truth about who we are and of who God is. The Magi found Jesus because they had engaged the arduous, life-long task of discovering the Truth no matter the cost. As we engage the process, as they did, Truth reveals itself to us. So, what Truth are you seeking today?
Second, the stories remind us that Truth is a real thing and that our living in Truth grounds our lives in the Truthfulness that is the foundation of authenticity, honesty and integrity. Anyone in 12-Step Recovery will tell you that self-delusion and self-deception are enemies. Both present us a hall of mirrors that lead toward the destruction of our Selves and of those around us. Knowing the Truth and living Truthfully are the only means to salvation from that which is destructive and open us to new and richer life.
Remember, all you older Catholics, the most fundamental truth about yourselves is not that you are sinful and bad and going to Hell, but rather that you are created in God's image and moving into the freedom of God's love and peace.
Remember, all you younger Catholics, personal choice entails acting according to discoverable moral values and that we become what we choose. The serious things of life are not just life-style choices nor unjust impositions but rather are building blocks to authentic life.
So, how will the Epiphany story inspire your choices today?
Third, the story reminds us that the source of Truth is Jesus, the divine one who comes to us in human dress. He is the object of our search. He is worth all our personal treasure. In giving him our treasure, he gives his treasure: a life of meaning and significance, lived in truthfulness and authenticity in relationships. And he what he gives us - divine love and affirmation - he asks us to share, while giving him the glory. What are you asking of him today?
Fourth, the story reminds us that Jesus the divine truth-speaker and divine love-giver was born in the morass of human sin, the ego-driven destructiveness of Herod and his elite. So are we, and the capacity for violence exists in each one of us. We must choose each day is to know the Truth, to hold our tendency to violence in check, and allow it to be transmuted by God's love inside us into righteous, productive, outward-looking indignation that strives for justice and truth.
The close-at-hand, threatening presence of disorder and violence reminds us that we need God as a fundamental reality, God's protection and God's peace. Oddly enough, desperation is a wonderful motivator for prayer. So, better not to miss a single day, a single moment of prayer grounded in love and hope. Remember too: prayer isn’t a thing; it is a mode of relationship.
This desperation is a far cry from the charming, candle-lit Victorian Christmas of cards and gifts. But that is where the story takes us: to truth and hope that the Child represents and offers. This is his revelation to the world. That is what Epiphany means. He is his gift to us, and through this gift he offers us a full life and hope for the world. How will you choose today?