Epiphany: Christ Is Revealed

We hear the word “epiphany” mentioned occasionally in the secular world. Recently, I heard the hosts on a sports talk radio show say that the Redskins owner needs to have an epiphany about the state of the football team. No arguments here! We also hear words similar to epiphany such as “Aha moment” and “light bulb went on”. We understand these to mean that it is an awareness or realization of something for the first time, and usually is very powerful. In today’s feast of the Epiphany, we refer to the visit of Christ by the Magi with words like manifestation and revelation. It’s the same concept as awareness and realization, and it means that Christ has been revealed and the three kings realize who he is.

Last year, I gave you the following epiphany formula for the Magi (and for 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)

Allow me to focus on the first one – God showing a star (a sign). I’m friends with a young woman and her family. She was raised strongly Catholic but has faced a few road bumps in college with her faith. God sent her a star: a young religious sister who has actually been a long-time friend of her family’s. This nun called her out of the blue weeks ago to invite her to a conference with thousands of other Catholic college students in January. She accepted and is currently at the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference in Indianapolis with 17,000 other college students. Yes, 17,000!

This young woman is looking for a sign like the Magi were. If she wasn’t, she would have politely declined the Sister. She has made a pretty serious commitment over her Christmas break. First, she is traveling to and from Indy on a bus with students from another university. That’s bold socially and spiritually! Second, she will be spending a few days with thousands of others doing Catholic stuff continuously – Mass, Adoration, Confession, talks, workshops, etc. It will be uber Catholic. She won’t be the only one there struggling with her faith, of course. But, the vast majority will be strong believers as well as many youth leaders of faith.

For what is she looking? In other words, what is her star? My guess is that her star will be a reason(s) to believe. Another way to say it is she is looking for evidence. She is very smart, and is looking for evidence that this whole thing about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church is for real. She needs to see it for herself. Her parents or priests or even that nun can tell her there was a star, but she needs to see the evidence for herself. She needs to make it her own. And believe me, that conference is custom-made for very intelligent college students like her who need to see in order to believe. I have great confidence that when we speak next, she will tell me about the star she saw that led her (back) to Christ. Her initial star in all of this, of course, was the Sister who invited her to the conference. See what happens when we simply invite people!

God is calling each of us to be a star to someone else. If that isn’t clear to you now, it will be soon. He will use you to be that sign for someone else to have an epiphany about His Son. He has done this for the past 2,000 years. Go back up to the formula of the Epiphany and remember how this happened for you. He used someone else to be a sign for you, and you have done Him homage and been happily changed ever since. He wants you to be the main player in someone else’s Epiphany. He wants you to be a star!

Christ is born!

Fr Greg

Sell All That You Have

I’ve been meeting with a young man who desperately wants to experience the presence of God. He was raised as a Protestant, so he has had Christ in his life from the beginning. He converted to Catholicism in college, but has struggled with signs from the Lord. For his relatives, faith seems to come more easily and naturally (supernaturally?) than it does for him.

He and I talked months ago when he was going through a bit of a “dark night.” This means that his spiritual life was in darkness, and that God seemed hidden. He was still not seeing any signs. Then, we met about a month ago, and God had revealed Himself in dramatic ways to this young man. He was so happy!

So, when we got together for dinner last Tuesday, the first thing he said was that he was fasting. I asked why, and he said it was to help overcome his doubts about God and Heaven. Our waiter was not too happy!

Last Tuesday was a feast day in the Church: the feast of St. James the Apostle. Catholics don’t fast on feast days. It’s like when Jesus says, “as long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast” (Mk 2:19). We apply this to the feast days of certain saints who had the bridegroom with them in extraordinary and major ways. So, feast days are celebrations of God’s grace through particular persons.

I waited for a moment to tell this to the young man so as not to jump all over him for fasting. I figured he didn’t know about feast days. But, then again, he was telling me about how he had been going to pray at a Catholic church during his lunch break each day (he really wants to experience God), so maybe he had some “church” in him. I told him about the feast day and the meaning of it, and he responded very well. The next thing he said was, “Waiter, I will order after all.”

We reviewed the past month, and it turns out that he had received some signs from God. So, why had he returned to doubting God and Heaven again? Because he had been reading a book each day by a “humanist” (i.e., atheist). He is an avid reader and thinker, and he didn’t even realize the effect the book was having on him. It was about the time that he started the book that his doubts began. This led to many sleepless nights, and a lack of peace. And yet, God kept showing him signs, the biggest of which happened last Monday (the night before our dinner).

We discussed what happened that day – the sign that he received – and how he slept well Monday night. He vowed to put down the atheist’s book, and start reading Bishop Robert Barron or C.S. Lewis again. Smart move! Then, with the whole feast day thing – which really is evidence of God and Heaven – he walked away from our dinner totally at peace.

Do you and I long for the Kingdom of Heaven like this young man? Do we desire Christ so much that we will make chapel visits or fast in order to see or hear Him? These questions apply to today’s Gospel parables of the buried treasure and the pearl of great price.

Notice the desire of the person who finds the buried treasure and the merchant who finds the pearl: each of them “sells all that he has”. These two images represent the Kingdom of God, and specifically Jesus Christ. When we find Christ and His Kingdom, we desire Him above all things. We are so filled with joy – like the person and the merchant – that we will sell all that we have for Him.

My friend was like the merchant “searching for fine pearls.” He has been searching for Christ. He gave up his lunch break and some food in order to find Him and the treasure of heaven.

What are we willing to sell in order to receive the riches of the Kingdom? Do we have the joy of people who have found the pearl of great price which is Christ?

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg