Revealed To The Nations: Two RC Women Priests Reflect on Epiphany Jan 8, 2017
In our age of uncertainty, violence, terrorism, just plain hatred and distrust of others and a resurgence of nationalism where mine is right and yours, if different, is wrong we find ourselves in a place not so different than the time of Jesus’birth and early years. Jesus was born when his Hebrew people and native land were under Roman rule, occupation and oppression. Today in the Middle East, Israel as a sovereign country exists , a small but powerful country seeking to protect its borders and territory. It exists in conflict with most of its neighbors and especially with Palestine (that also has a strong claim on the land). There is no peace. In Jesus’ day those who were poor suffered greatly and justice was, and still is, yet to be realized. Jesus was born in relative poverty in an obscure place but one of importance in his prophetic Jewish tradition. Yet, even by unusual light and events in the night skies people found him. Those who were not powerful were the first to find him.The shepherds, a despised and maligned local group, were the first to follow the light to his manger and to spread the good news of his birth(Luke 2:1-14). From the beginning of Jesus’life the definitions of who is important to God is turned upside down. A little later we see strangers finding him with the Magi from the East making their journey to him.(The Gospel of the day: Matthew 2:1-12). Magi were priests in the Zoroaster religion and they sought God by signs in the sky. They came from the area that is Iran today. In tradition, they are sometimes called kings because of the very expensive gifts they brought-gold for a king, myrrh for a healer and for pain, and frankincense for divinity. Gifts full of symbolism and meaning. And they were called kings and wise men because the Prophets (eg. our other texts of the day, Isaiah 60: 1-6; Psalm 72:1-13) foretold that kings of Sheba( now Ethiopia) and Arabia and other distant places would seek and find God’s chosen one, Messiah, Beloved, Son. Emmanuel-God With US. Then justice and peace would finally come to the world. There would be a Light to show the way. No class or racial/cultural divides and no nationalism here: all were welcome to find God revealed in a tiny humbly born human being, Jesus, the Christ-child.
Many sought him, some found him, but few live the lives he asks us to live-lives of compassion, inclusion, justice and peace making-lives marked by selfless love, and priority on the poor and outcast, like his. Hence, the promises of lasting justice and peace are yet to be fulfilled. Recent political events in the United States now prompt hundred of thousands of diverse women to march and stand in protest for the January 20th inauguration of the President-elect whose strongly,sometimes crudely, stated negative views on the dignity and worth of women and migrants from different shores leave us in disbelief and dismay. Standing up for justice for all is a beautiful “God-thing”as we say today. As Pope Francis responded: to live Christ is to be a builder of bridges, not walls.
And so now, in our times we still seek God. And the more we seek the more we find that God is bigger than and MORE than all we seek. God does not fit in a “God Box” all neatly tied with a bow. Jesus the Christ surely does not fit in that box. Our current love of the Cosmos and the Cosmic Christ and dependence on science for knowledge are but another step in this journey. Yet, it is faith that guides and prompts our search and the concepts of faith and knowledge are relevant at different levels of being. Faith is not based on logic or even knowledge, it is a gift of God-it is Grace, the Spirit of God helping us to believe and reach out to God. I do not think we find God through what we see as scientific fact, better known as theory. There are too many unknowns still. What goes on in the “black holes in space” are but one example of this. It takes a leap of faith to get up and make the journey into the unknown. The Magi represent this leap of faith as do the despised poor shepherds, as do Mary and Joseph as well. The story of Jesus’beginnings is all about faith, risking a journey into the uncertain and the unknown to find God and what God wants of us now in a world where love, justice and peace are sorely needed. The beginnings of this journey as revealed in Scripture and those accounts of the writers who lived closer to Jesus’ time are every bit as meaningful and valid and perhaps more so than our newest imaginations. Let us bring forth the foundation of our faith as we forge a way into the future and as we seek God’s Love and Wisdom. So, standing on all that has been revealed, let us step out on faith and find all that is to come. A blessed feast of Epiphany to all near and far.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
Here below are excerpts from the Homily of Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle of Toledo, Ohio who shows us how Jesus too was a migrant, a refugee and comments on living a life of welcome to strangers in our midst.
“….Epiphany is a good word for this.
It’s from the Greek,
meaning appearance or manifestation or revelation.
Lots of things are revealed
in this second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel,
and two of the most decisive are
that Jesus is hated by the powerful oppressor
and that he is adored by wise outsiders.
To show who Jesus really is,
Matthew pictures him as a helpless baby,
born away from his parents’ home,
taken to another country to escape slaughter,
then being settled in a different place
because of fear of oppression.
Jesus is poor, a refugee, a displaced person, an immigrant.
Tomorrow [today] through next Saturday
is National Migration Week.
Our Church reflects on the circumstances
faced by migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children,
and victims and survivors of trafficking.
Pope Francis asks us to create a “culture of encounter” with them.
He wants us to look past what we want
to pay attention to what the people around us need.
It’s hard for me to imagine the fear and the chaos
of the experience of being a refugee.
The closest I’ve been was the time I woke up
to find a strange man standing by my bed.
I jumped up and chased him out of the house,
swinging a rocking chair at him like it was a piece of spaghetti.
Adrenalin is pretty amazing!
But I didn’t feel safe in my home any more.
I couldn’t stay there,
but I didn’t have to leave town or leave the country.
I slept on a friend’s sofa for three nights
while I searched for an apartment.
That’s a pretty tame experience
compared to some I’ve heard about.
Last year a teacher told me about a second grade student
who was living with his grandmother in a van.
A few years ago I visited Family House Shelter
and cringed at the rooms for the homeless,
a 10×9 space for the whole family.
You’ve seen it, right here in our own wealthy country:
rows and rows of cots at the Cherry Street Mission,
New Orleans after Katrina,
people curled up to sleep under a bridge or on a park bench.
And we’ve all seen our broken world on TV,
most recently the bloodied women with babies and children
racing away from the rubble of their homes in Aleppo.
As Christians, we see the Holy Family in these refugee families.
We see living, breathing, feeling people,
children of God just like us,
people who, as Isaiah says, show the glory of God rising.
When I think about the suffering of the immigrant and the migrant
and the refugee and the trafficked and the homeless,
I’m inspired by YOU.
Our community has donated to ABLE, Rahab’s Heart,
Claver House, 1Matters, UStogether, and Beach House.
More than money, though,
each one of you gives stuff, or time and energy, or prayer.
You create that “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis talks about
every time you work in a pantry, pray for peace,
or give socks and gloves for the homeless.
You signed welcome cards
to the Syrian refugee families now settling here in Toledo.
Every week you fill my car with really good stuff
to take to Claver House for the hungry and homeless;
and to take to Rahab’s Heart
for their work with trafficked women;
and to UStogether for the new refugees.
The principles of social justice you put into practice
weren’t created by our Catholic church.
They are rooted in the whole Judeo-Christian tradition
of hospitality to the stranger.
Referring to Abraham and Sarah,
St. Paul told the Hebrews not to neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.
And he wrote to the Ephesians that we are all heirs,
all part of the one body.
To paraphrase Pogo, we have met the stranger and he is us.
We expect the coming years to be challenging.
We find hope in responding to the needs of the displaced.
Even more, we will keep on speaking up
whenever the policies of our leaders—
local and state and national—
threaten the peace and prosperity
of the least of our brothers and sisters.
Maybe it will be a one-line email
sent to our representative and senators in Congress:
don’t mess with Obamacare;
keep public lands for the public;
subsidize renewable energy, not fossil fuels;
no more fracking;
tax breaks for the poorest, not the richest.
Or a phone call to the mayor
or a council member or a county commissioner.
However we are able, we will reach out,
building that “culture of encounter” that Francis talks about,
one person at a time.
We’ll be entertaining angels,
and we will be aware of it.
Thanks be to God!
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006
A BLESSED EPIPHANY TO ALL!