The Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We have seen his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” Epiphany – the universal manifestation of the inbreaking reign of God. Yes, “every nation on earth will adore you”!
The pandemic is opening our eyes, helping us to recognize the centrality of relationships in our lives and the importance of community, revealing the intrinsic interconnectedness of all things. What a time this has been! It is good to be in a new year, to begin to imagine a new way of being together on this planet.
That the Good News has reached the ends of the earth - the whole earth community - feels like good news this year!
Raise your eyes and look about; they gather and come to you: your sons come from afar and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. (Isaiah 60: 4) … to ALL of you!
In the global context of pandemic and climate disruption, displacement and wars fought piecemeal glimmers of the “already” are visible worldwide. We have all seen them: the tremendous efforts of the World Food Program to avert famine and mitigate hunger as food supplies to vulnerable communities were disrupted and unemployment skyrocketed; the courageous actions of countless health care and other essential workers previously unseen and underpaid; dedicated efforts to protect from COVID19 the elderly, prisoners, those in care facilities, refugees and asylum seekers; the beauty brought by musicians playing solo on balconies to brighten deserted streets and performing whole symphonies alone/together on Zoom. These seeds, if nourished and carefully tended, may give rise to the kind of global paradigm shift that the arrival of the Magi portends.
Pope Francis invites us to an ever deepening understanding of Epiphany, of this global manifestation of the inbreaking reign of God. He repeatedly acknowledges the Good News, the presence of God in other faith traditions and “in all nations.” In the preparation of Laudato Si’, he was inspired by his brother Bartholomew, the Orthodox Patriarch, who, Francis said, “has spoken forcefully of our need to care for creation.” In writing Fratelli Tutti, he was encouraged by the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb with whom Francis declared that “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters.” In Querida Amazonia he wrote about the Amazon region as “a space where God himself reveals himself and summons his sons and daughters.” In his op ed published recently in the New York Times, he said, “To come out of this crisis better, we have to recover the knowledge that as a people we have a shared destination” – we are tied together by bonds of reciprocity.
As the global community struggles to respond to the crises of our time, a fundamental shift is needed from systems of exploitation and domination toward a new order of universal communion toward which this feast, this manifestation of the universal inbreaking of the reign of God points. Laudato Si’ calls it an ecological conversion, a shift to a new normal in which the infinite worth of every person is honored, the earth is healed, and the primordial unity of all beings is recognized.
The paradigm shift we humans are facing now has been “in the works” since the Magi started following that star. We know it will require unprecedented unity, unparalleled cooperation and the fullness of nonviolent love. But the future envisioned by the Magi and promised to “all the nations” is a spectacular one by which to measure to the “new post-pandemic normal” that we now need to create.
Marie Dennis is senior advisor to the secretary general of Pax Christi International. She was co-president of Pax Christi from 2007 to 2019 and serves on the executive committee of Pax Christi’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.
She was one of the primary organizers of the April 2016 conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace that was cosponsored by the Vatican and Pax Christi International. The conference called on the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of gospel nonviolence; proposed the World Day of Peace 2017 theme on nonviolence; and started the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. A second conference in April 2019, which was also cosponsored by the Vatican, contributed to an active, ongoing dialogue that has helped to move nonviolence to the center of Catholic teaching on war and peace.
Marie was previously director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. She is a Secular Franciscan, author or co-author of seven books including Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings and St. Francis and the Foolishness of God; editor of Choosing Peace: The Catholic Church Returns to Gospel Nonviolence; and co-editor of Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World.
She holds a masters degree in moral theology from Washington Theological Union and honorary doctorates from Trinity Washington University and Alvernia University. She is a lay woman, a mother of six and a grandmother.
Marie has visited many parts of the world, including countries in conflict, for Maryknoll and Pax Christi International. She serves on the steering committee of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network and as a contributing editor to Sojourners magazine. She has previously served on the White House Task Force on Global Poverty and Development; the advisory committee of Orbis Books; and the national boards of JustFaith Ministries, Sojourners magazine, the Jubilee USA Network and several other organizations.
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