Sunday, January 7, 2007

All the Nations

The opening prayer of the Eucharist for the Solemnity of the Epiphany reads: "Father, you revealed your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star. Lead us to your glory in heaven by the light of faith."

Being a Catholic Christian from infancy, I have more of a sense of being chosen or elect, let us say, than not. As such, the Epiphany, the "Christmas" of the nations, Jesus' manifestation to us (sic) Gentiles, always catches me a bit off guard. Proclaiming "He came for us too", I guess, rings kind of hollow for me, because, well, from baby on up He's mine, the Anointed One, the Christ is mine. The Good News is mine and I envy no one! To say it another way: despite all my sins and shortcomings, I have been evangelized and I pray only for the gift of perseverance unto death and glory with Him. Changing faith, changing churches or religions, couldn't be farther from my mind and my heart. It does not and cannot get any better.

Call this a feeling, a sentiment, a conviction, but recognize that here we are dealing with identity, a sense of belonging, an awareness of who I am in Christ. I know my Redeemer lives, as Job once prophesied in all the ambiguity of his less than enviable lot of suffering. Do you share this awareness with me? I hope so. I suppose that if you don't such a line might be annoying, I don't know. Every child should be able to sing full-throated Jesus loves me, without having to add cause the Bible tells me so. No offence meant by that observation, but the Magi followed a star and worshipped a Child. The shepherds, alerted by an angel, found a mother in a stable with her Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and they worshipped Him. Faith comes from hearing (and reading) but in an environment, through immersion, through tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord.

Faith and joy are mine in context: family first, then church and school, not discounting neighborhood or anything else positive. Right and good some say, but Church life and individual faith seem a bit tattered nowadays, we're not flying either as high or secure as we did once upon a time. Where have those days gone when a young man or woman contemplating marriage with a Catholic had to search his or her soul about "joining" before popping the question or saying "yes" and that being so out of awe for that sense of identity in the other, which inspired his or her wonder or respect. Think of St. Francis Xavier writing about how he wished he could run like a mad man through the halls of Spain's universities recruiting one and all to come and preach and baptise the waiting throngs of South and East Asia! Think about it, Catholic Christian, and ask yourself what is needed to proclaim Christ to the nations today, to bring to the nations the gentle yoke of His joy, of his Salvation.

The appearances of Our Lady at Guadalupe in Mexico and the apostolate of the humble widower Juan Diego for the last ten years of his life following the impression of her beautiful image on his coarse poncho has to be one of the most impressive and pure examples of the loving and gentle evangelization of the nations since the appearance of the star over Bethlehem over two millennia ago. Mexico of the conquistadors: two peoples ready to exterminate each other, on the brink of a war of desperation, are suddenly and forever enchanted by the words and beautiful smile of a Lady come from Palestine with flowers for the bishop in December! Over eight million baptisms in a short time and a people still in love with her after over a quarter of all history Anno Domini!

Tender words and gestures of love! The Third Millennium of Christianity belongs to all the world, if we are who we should be and wish that joy on all we meet. Lead us to your glory in heaven by the light of faith.