“And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9
Occasionally unexpected. Always welcome. And never ungenerous. That’s how I think of God’s presence in my life.
Epiphany means revealing and over the years I have experienced more than a few personal Epiphanies. I imagine you may have, too. Today’s feast day is another reminder of how God’s grace has permeated—and enriched—our lives. At one time or another, we have all experienced acts of kindness, courage, and personal piety. I think of these gifts as the new gold, frankincense and myrrh—blessings revealed as blessings from God.
In the spirit of the day, let me share a few of my revelatory experiences. I grew up in a white ethnic American Catholic family. I was an altar boy and attended a Catholic elementary school. I even attended a Catholic college! I see myself as Catholic through and through.
But over the years three other religious traditions have shaped me deeply. During my high school years I attended shul (that’s Yiddish for synagogue) with my Jewish friends. Their observance of the Torah impressed me deeply. Later, as a missioner in Egypt, I experienced the piety of my Muslim friends. The rhythm of Islamic observances–daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, and zakat, their obligatory acts of charity for the poor—moved me.
During my years working as a missioner in Kenya and Tanzania, traditional African religions impacted me in yet another way. I began to absorb a worldview unlike anything I had experienced before. In Africa, people see themselves as members of a community formed by their ancestors—going all the way back to the very first human who walked on African soil—and by those yet-to-be-born.
All these revelations–a series of Epiphanies that expanded my appreciation for other religions—deepened my own Catholic faith. I learned that God’s presence can come unexpectedly from anyone and anywhere—at any time—if we are open to receiving it.
In today’s Gospel we see that Herod was fearful of the Magi’s mission, fearful that his power would come into question. That fear kept him—a Jewish king, worshipper of the One God with access to experts on Scripture and its meaning—from making his way to Jesus. The Magi, on the other hand, were astrologers.
That star over Bethlehem spoke to them, perhaps in some unexpected way. Whatever they heard, it was revelatory enough to inspire them to travel far is search of a light that could transform their lives.
Friend, on the feast of the Epiphany I invite you to follow your own star and be transformed by the presence of God in your life. Perhaps you will be that shining light for someone… a peacemaker, a healer of hurts, a source of wisdom. We are all chosen, we have all been called. And we are all capable of revealing God’s goodness not just today but always. Why not give it a try.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Lance Nadeau, M.M.
Feast of the Holy Family
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
You have given us a beautiful example
of family and holiness by
overcoming problems, facing dangers
and resolving misunderstandings
by Your faith in God and through
Your love for one another.
Give us patience to endure setbacks,
courage to confront injustice
and faith to accept God’s will
even when we cannot be sure
of what to do.
Grant every family a mother’s love
a father’s wisdom and a son’s devotion
that our family might reflect Yours.
May we be ever mindful that a family is
made holy not by the absence of problems
but by the presence of God.
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.