Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany: Don't Stop at the Star

On this Feast of the Epiphany, as we hear the story of the Wise Men following the star and seeing Jesus with his mother Mary, we celebrate that through the Incarnation, God can manifest himself to us in a thousand ways at every moment of every day.

I’d like to begin with an example from one of my favorite author’s: the late Henri Nouwen. In his book “Here and Now” Henri describes an epiphany that he had on a busy intersection in Downtown Toronto.

Recently I was standing on the corner of Bloor and Yonge streets in Downtown Toronto. I saw a young man crossing the street while the stoplight turned red; he just missed being hit by a car. Meanwhile, hundreds of people were moving in all directions. Most faces looked quite tense and serious and no one greeted anyone. They were all absorbed in their own thoughts trying to reach some unknown goal. Long rows of cars and trucks were crossing the intersection, were making right and left hand turns in the midst of a large pedestrian crowd.

Notice this is a pretty typical event, could be anyone of us in our daily lives. And Henri does something that we all probably do… he begins to wonder.

I wondered what is going on in the minds of all of these people, what are they trying to do, what are they hoping for, what is pushing them? As I stood at that busy intersection I wished I were able to overhear the inner ruminations of all these people. But I soon realized that I didn’t have to be so curious. My own restlessness was probably not very different from that of all those around me.

Now here’s the fascinating part, he doesn’t stop there. His thoughts deepen from business and distraction, to wonder, to self-reflection… and then… finally to God.

Why is it so difficult to be still and quiet and let God speak to me about the meaning of my life? Is it because I don’t trust God? Is it because I don’t know God? Is it because I wonder if God is really there for me? Is it because I’m afraid of God? Is it because deep down I do not believe that God cares what happens at the corner of Yonge and Bloor?

In this awareness of God and in this wondering he discovers Jesus right in the midst of this busy intersection:

Still there is a voice right there in downtown Toronto: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” Can I trust that voice and follow it? It is not a very loud voice and often it is drowned out by the clamor of the inner city. Still when I listen attentively I will hear that voice again and again and come to recognize it as the voice speaking to the deepest places of my heart.

An epiphany like this could happen to anyone of us at any moment of the day in a thousand ways.

Let’s see how the first Epiphany occurred:

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.

Notice that the Magi didn’t stop at seeing the star. Yes they were overjoyed at seeing the star, but they didn’t stop there and just stare at the star. They entered the house and saw Jesus.

There can be many things in life that catch our attention and cause us for a brief moment to reflect. Don’t stop at the star, go deeper, and look for Christ in that moment.

Can you imagine how much different our lives would be if our eyes were open to this. If we realized that at every intersection, at every traffic jam, in every line, at work, at home, in school, on the computer, out in nature, family get-togethers, Christ is manifesting himself to us.

We too can experience the Epiphany if we don’t stop at the star, that event that catches our attention in our ordinary lives, but follow it through until we see Jesus in it. Henri Nouwen was startled when he saw a young man crossing the street almost being hit by a car, the wise men saw the star and were overjoyed, but thankfully neither stopped at the star. They kept going until they could see Jesus. We too can do this in every instance of our lives. There are so many things that can catch our attention and help us become aware and reflective in the present moment. Jesus is there waiting to reveal himself to you at every moment of the day in a thousand ways. Don’t stop at the star, when you have a moment where something catches your attention and you begin to wonder. Look for Jesus in that moment, listen for his voice, seek him with all of your heart and you too may have an Epiphany of your own this Christmas.

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