The Feast Of The Epiphany
On the Feast of Christmas our parish community was blessed to welcome Fr. John Nepil, a priest of the Archdiocese who is currently studying in Rome. His studies will prepare him to be a professor to assist in the formation of the future priests of the Archdiocese. In his homily Fr. John told a story of a chance meeting with strangers. The strangers met Fr. John and his friends, unaware that they were Catholic priests. When they did find out that not one but all three of the people they had been talking to were priests, one of the young strangers said something very profound: “If there is a God, he is silent!” This young man’s offhanded comment certainly reflects the struggles of many people in our world today.
In every human being there is an awareness of a desire for something more. We seek justice, but too often it is compromised. We search for spirituality, but often end up creating idols that fuel our own desires. We hunger for meaningful relationships, but find them difficult to maintain. We celebrate beauty, but it seems so quickly to fade. We hunger for freedom, but forever fight over freedom from what and freedom for what. We know that truth exists, but resist the constraints that truth often reveals are necessary for us to survive. And we all know that anarchy leads to darkness, but power as it is practiced too often subjugates and used wrongly leaves victims in its wake. Given our innate awareness that there is or ought to be something more and finding few meaningful alternatives it is no wonder that young people in our world might acknowledge that while there may be a God, God has become awfully silent.
In the face of this real critique and cry of the heart, we Christians have an immense task in front of us as we embark on this New Year. Our first task is to rediscover the God revealed in Jesus Christ. Our second task is to be living witnesses of this God: our lives and voices must speak to a world who think that God has gone silent.
It is absolutely essential that we rediscover the God revealed by Jesus Christ. The God whom Jesus reveals is not the sorcerer of Harry Potter who waves a magic wand and makes everything better. While it seems that this should be a godly act, such an action would destroy human free will. Biblical faith reveals that God created us in His own image and imparted to us a free will. If God simply steps in and makes all things right, we become mere robots and playthings for some God on high. Biblical faith has always rejected this notion. The story of the people of Israel affirms that despite their faults and failings God never abandons the project of His creation and its restoration. Over and over Christ, God does not redo His creation, instead God enters into His creation once more to restore and bring it to its rightful goal. But notice how - through Jesus, a suffering Messiah! Jesus chooses to surrender His life rather than to fail at the one human and divine act, love itself, which alone is capable of truly overcoming the cacophony of this world. In silence and surrender love triumphs and the death of Jesus occasions the resurrection and the dawn of the first day of God’s new Creation.
Like the disciples gathered in the upper room at Pentecost, we are called to be witnesses on behalf of Jesus and in the power of His Spirit. If it seems that God has become silent, it is only because we who have faith are not so eloquent in giving voice to our faith. Faith in Jesus Christ is not about learning a set of rules, though our lives must be governed by the discipline of living in love with others also joined to Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ is not about repeating empty rituals for the sake of earning a place in some distant far off heaven, though ritual is essential to new life in Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ is best described as a living encounter with the One come down from Heaven through which our minds our changed and by which we are reoriented to the world as a family of brother and sisters. St. Paul describes this as no longer I living, but Christ living in me. The actions of our lives must give voice to God’s love and God’s eternal presence. Heaven and earth have been joined. To this we must testify!
Wise men of old also felt the silence of God. But when a new star appeared in the East, they set out from where they were to a new place. They carried with them the best they had to offer – gold, frankincense and myrrh. Every Sunday of the year we continue that journey, seeking to conform ourselves more and more to the mind of Christ. Every Sunday we bring the best we have to offer so that God may transform it into the best He has to offer, His Son, Jesus Christ. Let this New Year begin with a resolve that God’s voice may become eloquently present in our world.