They Found the Lord
The Solemnity of the Epiphany is God’s showing or revelation of His Son to the world. Traditionally, this revelation is seen as taking place in three incidents in scripture: the journey of the Magi or Wise Men, the Baptism of Jesus by John, and the changing of water into wine at Cana, the first public miracle. In the Catholic Church, we emphasize the first aspect this week, the magi, and the second Epiphany next week, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The third Epiphany, Cana, is only presented every third year on the week after the Baptism.
Today we meet Seekers. The Magi, Wise Men, Kings, whatever name you wish to give them, were seekers. They were pagans, but they were committed to finding the truth. “The truth will set you free,” St. Paul would later say. The truth freed them from paganism. The searched for the truth and they found Jesus, they found the truth, Truth Incarnate.
Seekers for truth demand our respect. Many times people will come into the rectory and ask about the faith simply looking for harmony in a chaotic world. Many times people will ask you about your faith not in a challenging way, but trying to understand why the Mass, why the Eucharist is so important to you. I am sure you treat them with great respect. Like the wise men, they are open to journeying from their predispositions to finding a new understanding of truth.
All of us, though, must be seekers of truth throughout our lives. None of us have completed the journey that God has set aside for us in our lives. When we are open to his grace, we continually grow in the knowledge of his truth.
I am a bit uncomfortable with people who claim not to be seekers but to be finders. I have to tell you that the expression “I have found the Lord,” does give me some cause for concern. Perhaps some of you might feel the same way. Perhaps some of you might also feel uncomfortable associating with people who seem so much spiritually superior to you.
The problem I have is very often I come upon people who proclaim, "I have found the Lord," and then go on to be uncharitable and intolerant of those who have not had an experience similar to their experience.
Sometimes they are within the Catholic Church. They feel so overwhelmed by their experience that they treat other Catholics as mediocre Christians because they don't share their particular prayer situation. Christians who put other people down are not behaving like Christians. Jesus never did this. He was open to everyone. He never put anyone down. The only people that he did have a difficult time with, according to the Gospels, were those people who thought they were better, holier than others. He had no use for the Pharisees of his day. I doubt that he has any use for the Pharisees of our day.
Sadly, there are whole religions who claim that their members have found the Lord and then go on to say that everyone else is going to hell. At least they don’t discriminate. They condemn everybody, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems and particularly Roman Catholics. These people’s actions, their implicit hatred, demonstrates that they have not found the Lord, the only have a vague notion of where He lives.
Still, most of the people who state, "I have found the Lord," are people of good will. They have in fact had an experience of God's presence. Have they found the Lord or not? Yes, they have. They have found one of the many ways that God is present loving them and loving us all. Usually their discovery is that God cares for them personally. This is good and beautiful. But those who are intolerant and uncharitable are journeying in the wrong direction. Their mistake lies in the assumption that their experience of God's presence is the sum totality of his presence.
That is not true. God is present in an infinite variety of ways in our lives and in our world. If we focus on only one way that God is present, such as the personal call, we might miss many other ways he is present. We have to be seekers. We have to search for the Lord wherever he might be found, including the expression of his truth that proceeds from those who are very different from us such as a Hindu like Mahatma Gandhi, or a Jew like Martin Buber.
"Wise men still seek Him." Perhaps that has become a trite expression overused on so many Christmas cards. But it is still true. We need to seek the many ways the Lord is present. When we find one way he is present, we rejoice, but we still have to keep looking.
St. Paul told the Ephesians that he had a secret. it is as much a secret now as it was then. The secret is that God loves and cares for everyone, even if they are very different from each other. Nothing could be more divergent than the pagan Gentiles and the religious Jews. Certainly recent history has demonstrated how deep this hostility remains. Yet, God has made Jews and Gentiles, Christians and Moslems, all people, his children.
The big secret that remained a secret to the people of Paul's day and remains a secret for many of the people of our day is that God refuses to be limited in his love by our intolerance. He will not be limited in loving others by our view of what he should be like and how people should experience him. At the same time, if we are intolerant of others, then others will be denied seeing his presence in us. Spiritual arrogance, whether that of ancient pharisees or modern ones, hides the presence of the Lord.
"I have found the Lord." Great, but keep looking. You have only found one of the many facets of Infinite Truth, only one of the many way that the Lord loves you. A retreat experience, the birth of a child, a recognition of the depths of love of a friendship or your marriage, a traumatic situation you have survived, your adjustment to living as a single Catholic parent, the courage it takes to deal with physical challenges and sickness, all of these are additional ways you can find the Lord. We have to keep searching for the Lord until the day we die. If we are not physically dead when we stop searching for him, we will be spiritually dead.
Like the magi, the wise men of the Solemnity of the Epiphany, our lives must be a journey of faith searching for the Lord.
His light is strong. His love is near. May he draw us beyond the limits that this world imposes to the life where his Spirit makes all life complete.