I remember during my first year of post graduation I felt helpless in an argument with a classmate on the existence of God and Jesus as a person and could do nothing but lose myself in the inability to prove my faith. I felt so beaten up with each question that was thrown against me by my own best friend who almost made me weak and pathetic and made me feel like some mindless, sick, superstitious, primitive who believes in something for no reason. But deep down in my heart I couldn’t just give in to the fact that life is meaningless and we all came from apes and we go nowhere. I searched for God. Even with all catechism and Mass and Sacraments I never felt this need met. Isn’t this a universal search? May be the need to meet God, to know Him personally are disguised or misled into a search for things and people? Are those unquenchable desire for possessions, honor, attention and everything are some kind of misplaced affection? Because I look at my overflowing wardrobe and feel is this the result of some misplaced affection? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” And this search is the essence of today’s liturgical celebration.
I should confess I stole the title from Aletia whose article also discusses on the same question: Where is Christ? The essence of Epiphany is this question revolving around the entire event of man going in search of God who indeed came for man and the nature of this search. Well the search doesn’t seem all comfy and exciting. The very first thing that the wise men face in this search for God is the call to make an unexpected journey into a foreign space. God cannot be found amidst comfort. The opportunity to encounter Him often comes disguised in the toughest situations- like an invitation to spend New Year with in-laws or in front of abortion clinics or the job situations where you are stuck between office politics and loving the neighbor or in the subway. The chance to encounter Him comes with a challenge. Most often unrecognizable often to be missed. In the places you don’t expect and don’t want to. But it’s up to us to say yes or no. Say yes, face the pain and move on like the Magi or say no and take no risk at all. But the Epiphany proves the risk is worth it. St Augustine says “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek Him the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement.”
So where do we begin this search for Christ in this modern world? Again another challenge,another disguise. You can never find him if you are going to go around looking for Him with a picture in your head. The Magi were expecting to see a royal child because they were in search of a King. They almost lost Him however they found the star once they left King Herod. An unexpected twist and further journey into the unknown. Yet they kept going. They did lose track and had to get back in. They had moments of great confusion because nobody in Jerusalem understood who they were searching for. The wise men were really wise men which had them risk being misunderstood too. They stood out from crowd. Going to go in search of a personal encounter with God? then be ready to feel lonely, threatened, confused, tired, even giving-up, and risk losing everything.
The truth is, you might find Him in the most unlikely places but most of all in the most unlikely persons. It could be the drunkard in the road, the man who begs in subway, or your friend who is pro-choice or the child who’s inside mothers womb begging to live or even the Mother herself. It could be even those with whom you try to keep yourself far away. Those hurt, wounded, bandaged relationships that are so fragile to handle, those whom we consider major annoyance, those who might get into our nerves, those we like to forget or even want to intimidate, those who try to put us down. It could be any one of them or even all of them.
St.Francis of Assisi disliked lepers however one day when he overcame his fears and hugged one of them and walked away, it turned out to be Jesus. St.Martin had found a beggar in street and when he shared his cloak that night Jesus came in his dreams wearing the same cloak and thanked him for it. Even on the road to Emmaus the disciples did not recognize Jesus because they were holding a different picture of resurrection in their mind. Break the mental images and we can recognize Him wherever He manifests.
Ultimately the truth is “Everyone you meet is Jesus in disguise.”(Bl.Mother Teresa ) and the Epiphany is about undertaking the journey into unknown of recognizing Him. The event has a happy ending. The next time you think you don’t like someone or want to avoid something think twice. It could be an Epiphany.