As we begin a new decade and a new semester it is appropriate during this season that the church gives us the feast of the Epiphany, highlighting the arrival of the three kings to recognize the birth of Jesus. There are numerous analogies and lessons we can see in this occasion, but let’s also focus on the word, epiphany. Yourdictionary.com defines epiphany as a sudden and profound understanding. In today’s world we are faced with many challenges, and achieving depth of understanding stands out as sorely needed. Our culture is divided almost as much as it ever has been, causing pain and hardship in families and friendships and across communities. Social media screams that there is no way to span this intractable chasm and many people wonder how much worse things can be. I’m reminded of what a wise person once said – everything passes away but the stars. The hatred, the vitriol, the weapons, the shouting on TV and social media – it all passes away. When we consider this in the light of the lessons of epiphanies, we have some hope to hold on to.
I’d like to focus on three of the lessons. First, we can remember to see with the eyes of the stranger (like foreign kings also known as “wise men”) and try to see today’s reality from different perspectives rather than staying rigid in our views. Second, put our best foot forward (they came bearing gifts). Often people today come armed for an argument rather than sharing the gift of listening. The danger with this approach is seeing anyone different from us in any way (including opinion) as “the other”. This creates a barrier and temptation to anger and hate, we’ve seen too much evidence of this already. We have an opportunity with a new beginning to smile, listen, and respect setting an example of positive relationships. Third, we have to remember to seek another route (as the kings did on their way home). Continuing to do what we’ve done the same way may not be working. Openness to alternate routes may provide some middle ground where we can seek solutions with those who have an opposite approach to address the same issue.
I’m often reminded of my favorite prayer and song, the prayer of St Francis. This simple prayer calls on us to love one another by putting the needs of others first – a true sign of loving. Think about this prayer when you have a minute – it’s full of good reminders. Putting the needs of others first is really hard to do when we face the kind of public rhetoric we hear today, but may be a little easier if we can:
- Look at our daily life and our world from the perspective of others. Figuratively walk for a while in someone else’s shoes.
- Put your best foot forward. Lead with your smile and remember simple kindnesses go a long way to build relationships.
- There are different ways to accomplish your individual goals in daily life, and our collective goals of caring for one another and supporting people in need. Don’t be afraid to try a different route.
Remember to look for the stars, everything else will pass away. What helps your faith stay strong? Look to those places, people and other resources to support you in beginning this new decade. The Epiphany experienced by the three foreign kings has some lessons we can use today; we can always use some good lessons.
David Hoffman DPS CCE