Feast of the Epiphany
Where do I meet Jesus, the Christ?
How curious the Gospel writers include the lowest of the lowly…dirty, rag-clothed shepherds…as well as foreign upper crust magi to be the first to get it about the baby. Was the point to reveal the inclusive love of Jesus?
It is so easy for me to find a comfortable, isolated setting to live. Nice neighborhood, safe streets, surrounded by life’s best amenities. Real estate developers speak of EXCLUSIVE places to live as the most coveted. Away from the rift raft, the criminals, the drug dealers.
But that is not the Christian Way.
The teaching of Christ is inclusivity. Everyone welcome.
But more than welcoming, we are told that it is being with those our culture shames and devalues where we find the most valued of all: Jesus the Christ.
Hard to live this way in our world. I avoid the beggar on the street, looking the other way when one gets into my space. I’d rather the sanitized care for the poor: give a donation to St. Vincent DePaul Society or a homeless shelter.
Several years ago I read Robert Coles’ book on Dorothy Day. The renown Harvard psychiatrist recalled entering St. Joseph Catholic Worker store front in New Your City’s notorious Bowery neighborhood. He saw Dorothy for the first time sitting at a table with a man talking nonsense. She listened to his every incoherent word. When she looked up and recognized the famous doctor she asked “Which one of us would you like to speak with?” Coles commented that his first impression of the saintly woman was the message of equality. She did not presume he wished to meet her; the troubled street guest was no better than she.
Typical Dorothy Day. She saw the face of Christ in everyone…the important, the poor, the mentally twisted, the addict, the prostitute, the wealthy, the powerful and the weak.
Isn’t this is the meaning of Epiphany.
This feast, one of the grand ones in our faith tradition, prods me out of any cocoon I have created to insure nothing overwhelms or agitates me. My task, instead, is to embrace everyone, without discrimination. I am called to live this way in my family, my circle of friends, my neighborhood, parish and yes, in my entire world. It means, in Pope Francis’ words, to build bridges, not walls.
The message is, in fact, counter-cultural in today’s world. But the Gospel has always been counter-cultural. That’s why the One who preached it was crucified.
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionists Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Office, state legislator, and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.