Epiphany of the Lord

January 8, 2017

January 8, 2017

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January 8, 2017

Epiphany of the Lord

Carolyn

Woo

When I was young, I thought the Christmas carol We Three Kings from Orient Are was written for us. As a Chinese, this title made me feel explicitly included in the Christmas story. Only later did I realize the Kings or magi were probably from the Middle East such as Iran, Iraq, Arabia or Yemen, and not from my home in the Far East.  

Never mind though, I learned a more important insight about the significance of God's invitation to the magi who were not part of the Jewish people.  The invitation to meet the savior is a universal call given by God to all: the Jews and the Gentiles; the insiders, the outsiders; the lowly shepherds, the learned wise men; the ones who share our faith and the ones who do not.  

While God's invitation is universal, the response by people is clearly not. I often wondered why such a brilliant star would compel only three seekers. For the other astrologers or astronomers studying the skies those 2000 years ago, weren't they similarly struck by the brilliance of the star? A star, which in their books, signaled a new king, a new order.  

Did they see with their eyes but not with their hearts, with intellect and knowledge but not the passion that led them to act? Were they too satisfied, too busy, too timid or too pragmatic?  

What compelled the magi who embarked on the journey? What were they looking for anyway? Judging from the presents they brought, one was anticipating a king as he brought gold.   A second was hoping to meet the true god as reflected in his present of frankincense.  Did the third have a premonition of a savior who would give his life to humanity?  He brought myrrh, which was used for embalming. 

This search, for them, is to learn the ultimate truth, the source of life, and the purpose of their being.

God's invitations are seldom subtle: in this case, a dazzling star for the magi.   Like those three kings, we are also feted to the display of the grandeur of creation and guided by our holy books of Scripture.  Though the Bible did not go into details, the magi, like us, must have had nagging questions about who they were and what they were doing with their lives.  Were they curious about a new order which gives sense to their experiences of incomprehensible goodness and suffering? 

But it is up to each of us, just like the three magi who went, to decide to "pack our bags," prepare our presents which represent the ways we want to pay homage, and leave what we know behind to journey to God.  

If the magi's experience was any indication, somewhere along the journey, the light would go out of view and we may end up at the wrong places like Herod's palace. We may come across a cruel and insecure leader who thinks of God as a rival and tries to corrupt our purpose.  

But always, God himself is in our search for him and he will lead us to him.  However, we are likely to encounter him in the most unlikely places like a stable, with an unlikely cast such as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, barn animals, and in the person of a helpless baby.  We should be prepared that-- in what our worldly and even educated minds do not anticipate-- God will manifest himself. 

The magi were to return home by a different way.  This is not just a GPS issue, but speaks to the conversions of the travelers who have met God. They could never be the same again.  Wherever they go, they will radiate a new light, a deeper and more genuine love, and a new reason for living. Even when they go back to the same places doing the same things, they would do so with an all-absorbing desire: to give glory to God. 

If we pay attention, God is flashing signs as well as whispering to us as invitations for this pilgrimage. We can be immobilized by our reluctance to leave the known and safe, to let go of whatever we clutch tightly. But then we do not find God manifest in those people and places in which he dwells.  This invitation does not have an expiration date and this journey starts anew every day.

EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

De joven siempre pensé que el villancico sobre los tres reyes magos había sido escrito para nosotros.  Como soy China, el titulo me hacía sentir específicamente incluida en la historia de la navidad.  Solo mucho después me di cuenta de que en realidad estos reyes o magos, eran probablemente del medio oriente, de lo que son hoy países como Irán, Iraq, Arabia, Yemen, y no del lejano oriente.

Pero no importa, aprendí algo más importante acerca del significado de la invitación de Dios a estos reyes magos quienes no eran parte del pueblo Judío.  La invitación a conocer al salvador es un llamado universal de Dios para todos: judíos y gentiles; los de adentro, los de afuera; el humilde pastor, los hombres sabios; los que comparten nuestra fe y los que no la comparten.

Pero así como el llamado de Dios es universal, las respuestas claramente no lo son.  A menudo me pregunto porque una estrella tan brillante solo atraería a tres indagadores.  ¿No será que los astrólogos y astrónomos estudiando los cielos hace 2000 años quedaron también impresionados con la brillantez de esta estrella? Una estrella, que en sus propios libros, anunciaba un nuevo rey, una nueva orden.

¿Será que vieron con los ojos, pero no con el corazón, con el intelecto y sabiduría, pero no con la pasión necesaria para actuar? ¿Habrán estado satisfechos, o demasiado ocupados, o serian muy tímidos o demasiado pragmáticos?

¿Qué fue lo que atrajo a los reyes magos que se embarcaron en este viaje? ¿Y que buscaban? Dados los regalos está claro que uno de ellos esperaba encontrar un rey por el hecho de que traía oro.  Un segundo esperaba conocer un verdadero dios por aquello de que traía incienso.  ¿Sera posible que el tercero tendría una premonición de un salvador que daría su vida por la humanidad? Este trajo mirra, el cual se usaba en el proceso del embalsamamiento.   

Esta búsqueda, para ellos, es para conocer la verdad cumbre, la fuente de la vida, y el propósito de su ser.

Es raro que una invitación de Dios sea sutil; en este caso una estrella deslumbrante para los reyes. Así como esos tres reyes, somos festejados con la grandeza de la creación y guiados por los libros sagrados de la biblia.  Aunque la biblia no entra en gran detalle, los reyes, como nosotros, tienen que haber sentido esas preguntas persistentes acerca de quienes ellos eran, y que hacian con sus vidas.  ¿Sera que curioseaban acerca de una nueva orden que le diera sentido a sus experiencias de incomprensible bondad y sufrimiento?

Nos toca a cada uno de nosotros, igual que a los reyes, decidirnos a “hacer las maletas” y prepara nuestros regalos, que representan las maneras en las cuales hacemos homenaje, y dejar lo que conocemos para empezar nuestra marcha a Dios.

Si las experiencias de los reyes son indicación, en algún momento de este viaje es posible que la luz que no guie se nos escape de la vista y nos encontremos en el lugar errado, como el palacio de Herodes. Es posible que nos encontremos con un liderazgo cruel e inseguro que ve a Dios como contrincante y con esto trata de envenenar nuestro propósito.

Pero Dios mismo está siempre presente en nuestra búsqueda y El mismo nos guía.  Sin embargo, es muy posible que lo encontremos en los lugares más improbables e inesperados como un establo, con un elenco poco probable como María, José, los pastores, animales de finca, y en la persona de un pequeño bebe indefenso. Debemos estar preparados, para lo que no anticipamos en nuestras mentes educadas y sofisticadas, ahí es donde Dios se manifiesta.

Los reyes volvieron por otro camino. Esto no es solo a causa del GPS, esto nos habla acerca de la conversión del viajero que ha llegado a conocer a Dios. Nunca serán iguales.  Dondequiera que vayan, irradiarían una nueva luz, un amor más profundo y genuino, y una nueva razón de vivir. Aun volviendo a los mismos lugares, haciendo las mismas tareas lo harán todo con un solo propósito: dar gloria a Dios.

Si ponemos atención, Dios nos da señas despampanantes y a la misma vez nos susurra invitaciones a este peregrinaje.  Podemos quedar inmovilizados con la duda de dejar lo que conocemos y creemos ser seguridad, lo agarramos con fuerza sin quererlo soltar.  Pero si lo ignoramos no vemos a Dios manifestado en esas personas y esos lugares donde El yace.  Esta invitación no tiene fecha de vencimiento, y esta marcha comienza nuevamente todos los días.

 

First Reading

Is 60:1-6

PSALM

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

Second Reading

Eph 3:2-3A, 5-6

GOSPEL

Mt 2:1-12
Read texts at usccb.org

Carolyn Woo

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo is President & CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. She came to CRS in January 2012 after a distinguished academic career.

Before coming to CRS, Carolyn served from 1997 to 2011 as dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. During her tenure, the Mendoza College was frequently recognized as the nation's leading business school in ethics education and research. It received and has retained top ranking from Bloomberg Businessweek since 2010 for its undergraduate business program. Prior to the University of Notre Dame, Carolyn served as associate executive vice president for academic affairs at Purdue University.

Carolyn was born and raised in Hong Kong, and immigrated to the United States to attend Purdue University, where she received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees, and joined the faculty. Her teaching, research and administrative leadership have been recognized through Best Paper Awards by the Academy of Management, selection as one of 40 Young Leaders of American Academe by Change Magazine, the journal of the American Association for Higher Education; distinguished alumna and honorary alumna by Purdue University and University of Notre Dame, as well as the conferral of honorary doctorates from Providence College, Loyola University of Maryland, Manhattan College, Wake Forest University, the University of Notre Dame and others.

Carolyn was the first female dean to chair the accreditation body for business schools—AACSB: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business—and directed its Peace Through Commerce initiative. She helped launch the Principles for Responsible Management Education for the United Nations Global Compact.

From 2004 to 2010, Carolyn served on the Board of Directors of CRS. Her current board service includes: Aileron Foundation; Catholic University of America; Archdiocese of Baltimore Independent Child Abuse Review Board; Migration & Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and the International Policy Committee, United States of Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Carolyn was one of five presenters in Rome at the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment in June 2015. Her faith journey and work at CRS are recounted in her book, Working for a Better World, published in 2015 by Our Sunday Visitor.

Representing CRS, Carolyn was featured in the May/June 2013 issue of Foreign Policy as one of the 500 Most Powerful people on the planet and one of only 33 in the category of “a force for good.” Carolyn’s Catholic News Service monthly column took first place in the 2013 Catholic Press Association Awards in the category of Best Regular Column—Spiritual Life.

Carolyn is married to Dr. David E. Bartkus. They have two sons, Ryan and Justin. Her parish is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.

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