Can you write your story of faith? This was a question I recently asked a friend as we were discussing our journeys with the Lord. She pondered it, and then thought it would be hard mainly because she didn’t know exactly how she came to be a devout Catholic. She kind of laughed at herself while she was saying this, and it might seem humorous to us, too. But, some in our own congregation might have the same thought: how exactly did I come to really believe in and follow the Lord? Today’s feast of the Epiphany might help to pinpoint exactly the struggle for my friend or anyone else. What was our epiphany about the Lord and when did we have it?
When we talk about the Epiphany, we are referring to the outward manifestation of the Lord to the Magi and to the world. He is revealed to them as the Christ, and they “come to do him homage”. Their epiphany occurred through a star which led them to the baby Jesus. They were “overjoyed” during this experience, and gave treasures to the Lord of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When we hear that they “departed for their country by another way” , we can interpret it as this event changed their lives. This would be the starting point in their stories of faith.
I have described to you my journey of faith in homilies, but I don’t think I’ve written it here in any great detail. Please forgive me if I have! My epiphany happened with the Eucharist. My “star” was Msgr. Thomas Wells. And, it happened when I was 21 years old. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools through the first half of college. Even though I was taught Catholic doctrine at home and in school, not much sunk in the first 21 years of life. I was a clueless Catholic.
But, then, one day, Msgr. Wells and I were talking about the Eucharist. He said, “Greg, ‘this is my body’ means this is my body”. Epiphany! That was the first time I had really heard the teaching on the Real Presence. And, it blew me away. I had heard those words (“this is my body”) hundreds of times before at Sunday Mass, but they never really registered in my mind or heart. And then, after the one-sentence epiphany (or revelation), I saw everything differently: God, Mass, the Cross, the Church, Confession, and life. I began to “do him homage” at daily Mass and Adoration, and was having the same experience of being “overjoyed” as the Magi. Of course, this all changed my life as it did theirs.
In talking to many people for the past 25 years, I realize that not many can point to one moment – and certainly not one sentence – as their epiphany of who Jesus really is. For many, it has been engrained in them since childhood. They have always just believed. But, they have had a multitude of personal epiphanies about the Lord as Savior, Master, brother, friend, Good Shepherd, Prince of Peace, Healer, Divine Physician, etc. For others, the epiphany came as adults, and often in a way that Christ appeared to them in a personal way. That is really the underlying point to our epiphanies: an encounter with the living God in a person, Jesus Christ. Yes, the Magi were overjoyed at “seeing the star”, but only because it “stopped over the place where the child was”. They were so happy because they were encountering the Son of God. As much as I liked Msgr. Wells for 5 years before my epiphany, I didn’t find true joy until he led me to encounter the Son of God in the Eucharist. That’s when the Lord and faith became personal. That’s when an epiphany had taken place, thanks be to God.
So, here is the epiphany formula for the Magi and hopefully all of us:
- God will show you a star – something or someone that will lead you to where He is.
- God will reveal Himself to you in a personal and profound way.
- Do Him homage.
- You will be overjoyed in your encounter with Him.
- Offer Him gifts (e.g., your life as gold)
- Go home a different way (i.e., change your life)
Christ is born!