Fr. Glenn: Given An Epiphany

By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

How ‘bout that New Year snowfall, huh? Skiers are certainly happy. Being an old Texan where we don’t normally get such a volume, it was (and continues to be) an “interesting” experience. Just trying not to slip and bust a couple of ribs; been there, done that … hopefully for the last time (the ol’ ribs have had a hard life). Prayers go up for all of YOUR safety, too. 

But snow has an interesting effect: it covers all. This “covering all” theme is quite appropriate for the present moment, for we Christians (or at least most of us) celebrate the Epiphany this day (Sunday)—the name given to the visit of the “magi” or “wise men” to the newborn Jesus (Matthew 2:1ff). 

Christians see in this truly pivotal event in salvation history the realization of the “people of God” moving from perceived as the Jews/Israelites alone to encompassing all peoples of the world. St. Paul describes this particularly: “There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek [meaning non-Jews], but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.” (Romans 2:9-10) … and “…the Gentiles [non-Jews] are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:6)

This universality of the opportunity for the salvation offered through Christ is also affirmed by St. John in the book of Revelation: “I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” (Revelation 7:9). Jesus Himself affirms the pending universality in this vein: “And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29)

In our day of (imperfectly) attempted diversity and inclusion, we see how God Himself sets the example, even from the time of Jesus’ birth: this “epiphany” given to the world of the universal brotherhood of mankind. Jesus provides example in His own ministry often, interacting with many who would have been rejected by the Jews of the time: Samaritans, lepers, tax collectors (of whom even His apostle Matthew was one), those otherwise considered “unclean” or cursed in some way (the blind, deaf and lame), and even women in what was a very patriarchal society in which they were largely dismissed out of hand.

Certainly even Christianity, made up of imperfect people, has—and in many places, continues to— observed this ideal of universality and brotherhood quite imperfectly. But, using the old saying that we often recall for lapsed churchgoers: “Church (community worship) is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners” … just as we don’t go to school because we know all already. And so … we all continue to struggle against cultural prejudices, bigotry, and the like, but we can hold this celebration of those magi’s visit two millennia ago as remembrance and affirmation of all peoples as children of God. 

After all, fellow Christians, as one of the saints wrote, explicating what we should simply glean from scriptures anyway: there is not a person in history or on earth for whom Jesus Christ was not crucified … and St. Paul reminds us: “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:3-6) Therefore … if Jesus died for all … and if the Father longs for all … will we ourselves reject any person? If we do so, how can we pray “Thy will be done” while simultaneously wanting His will to be thwarted?

So … rather than reject, accept; rather than exclude, include. And rather than hate, love. Certainly we reject evil actions, but even many of those may be done through some ignorance, or due to some cultural or other early persuasion. Remembering Jesus’ own gentleness toward sinners, our mission, O Christians, is not to judge the soul (though actions might be objectively known as evil, e.g., harming the innocent), but rather to convince through wisdom and gentleness. As the mystic St. John of the Cross wrote: “Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?”, and “Where there is no love, put love – and you will find love.”

Los Alamos prides itself on its openness. So, in this season of the “Prince of Peace”, let us be truly a “city on a hill” … not just in geography, but in example to others … in kindness toward ALL peoples—remembering St. John already quoted above, and how in his vision of: “all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…” After all, the Magi were led by the light of a star, but Jesus calls us to be the light of the world.