Happy Feast of the Epiphany.
It is an experience of intercultural and collective bonding of the Magi.
Life is a manifestation of the waves of enthusiasm that inspires and impacts the shores of our thoughts and actions. The vision of the star by the Magi created an impacting contribution of opening up to universal cosmic communion.
The liturgy of today is set at the backdrop of such meaningful and enriching symbols. The manger, the baby with his parents, the angels, and the shepherds play an enchanting role. Everything is interwoven into the tapestry of salvation.
The unfolding splendour of God and the ardently searching humanity comes alive in a cosmic splendour at the heart of today’s liturgy. Every movement is a “looking ahead” experience with new challenges. Yesterday’s success does not deserve today’s applause.
This feast is an invitation to march ahead and face new challenges. The present must lead to a journey in community in search of a richer and fuller meaning. No hurdle can hinder the pursuit of our purpose towards the desired destination.
It is a call to humanity to enter the circle of life and breathe as one. The journey of the wise men is an act of regeneration to a new existence. This is the discovery made by the Magi. Their keen observation of the natural signs and their sensitivity led them to the discovery of the divine manifestation on earth. At the same it unfolded the hidden prejudices and the fears of pharaoh. The strong king felt shaken by the birth of a child and his insecurity led him to go after the head of the child.
This experience of the Magi reveals the most interesting secrets of life. The stirring energy and the keen sensitivity of the kings propel them to rise and go in search of the extraordinary Child. Their focus on the purpose makes them forego their comfort and embrace the difficult path with readiness to face the risk. Life is built on letting go, embracing the cross, and moving toward the goal relentlessly. This experience prefigures the life of Jesus himself. It is an act of endurance and perseverance till the goal is attained.
The guiding star is the light in the depth of one’s heart. The clarity on the inner-directed purpose to build a humanity that embraces all humanity as a fraternal communion beyond caste, race, colour and continents. All children are world-class citizens, interwoven into one Humanity, interconnected and have the power of bonding as one human family.
The Epiphany is a prophetic time, a gift of grace. It unites the realities of Nature, Human, and the Divine into a harmonious Unity.
I wish to share an experience: Trans-persons in our world are God’s gift to humanity. Yet, they are counted as abnormal and undesirable. For no fault of their own they are counted as misfits. It is time to be a healing presence, a comforting humanity, and a caring community. This realization made us to go in search of them and create an ambience of fellowship and friendship holding hands.
On 8th Dec 2022, five trans-persons were invited to a fellowship meal with us. It was a moment of grace and an experience of God’s presence in our midst. It was overwhelming to dine with them in our community. The sisters of our community were together and we felt that we were nurturing our communion together. That they are in no way different than us. Every human created by God is so unique and beautiful. They hold the image and likeness of God within them. Their loveliness, their care and concern are marvellous to see and enable us to appreciate and love them. In this context, we learn a new lesson that a caring and compassionate humanity that is in search of the truth: we must welcome and embrace.
The magi give us a lesson of multi-cultural communion, collective bonding, and risking one’s life to arrive at the desired destination.
From our settled foundations we move in search of new meaning, new responses, and new outcomes. This multicultural collaboration is our quest for the sacred revelation in the universe as spoken by the Prophet Isaiah that God’s Glory shines upon Jerusalem and that nations shall walk by Jerusalem’s light. The wealth of the nations shall be brought there with all proclaiming the praises of God. St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, affirms that it was revealed to him that the gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same Body, and co-partners in the promise of Christ Jesus.
This affirmation takes a step further to diagnose the place and role of women in the church which attains high importance since women are emerging from a silenced existence to a new active presence in the church and in the world. The mine of undiscovered treasure is found in this cave of silence. It is a new-found opportunity for women to express and validate their experiences. Pope Francis’ call to synodality is a sign of newness that holds a great potential of innovation, articulation, and action. It is bound to turn the tide of a male-dominated church into an inclusive and complementary relationship. It affirms the giftedness of every culture and nation and recognises the newness that the Church can offer the world through women.
The timely leadership of the women, like that of the Magi, coming from intercultural grounds opens a newness in the church that Christianity is an all-embracing communion. It opens the door to a combination of multicultural recognition, valuing every culture and gender as sacred and acknowledging the presence of the divine unfolding in the varied contexts of humanity. Therefore, the place for superiority, and favoured position are under suspicion. The hermeneutic of suspicion could be applied in this regard. The church is in a continuous state of reformation. It is dynamic, active, and alive and therefore it is young. It is hope-filled since the power of God is manifested and revealed irrespective of nationality or physical or cultural difference. All beings are sacred and are born of the God of love. They converge in that oneness.
The magi become ambassadors of the Gospel in distant lands. Today women realize this urgent mission of undoing patriarchal theology and to build an inclusive community of oneness. This was the revelation to St. Paul when he says that the gentiles are strengthened by the Word. One human being, Jesus, became a turning point to the rest of the world
Collective as bonding: another very important aspect of divine manifestations that the Good News is revealed and manifested to collectives of people. The three kings represent the continents of the earth. The same message of God’s reign of justice, human rights and equality - equal dignity of all persons - is shared with all nations. The kingdom pursuit is a collective enterprise. It is in togetherness we arrive at a celebrative community of oneness, a collective of differences that does not hinder our unity. They are co-partners in the promise of Christ Jesus.
The Synodal Process, initiated by Pope Francis, calls for a time of deep communion with humanity irrespective of origin, culture, diversity, and matter of faith. Every being is God’s design in this universe. No culture is superior nor inferior. All are God’s Children. Thus, no man-made difference can create neither superiority nor inferiority. In the pantheon of God’s creation every being is upheld as God’s gift.
In this sense, the male-female difference in the sacramental life of the Church stands questioned. The initiative of Vatican II has not been taken forward with vigour. The time is ripe that the church opens its portals for acknowledging the equality principle of the sexes and promote the practices which were prevalent in early Christianity, such as the Diaconate Ordination of Women as seen in Romans chapter 16 - St. Phoebe being the first Deacon in the Roman Church. It is high time that the church opens its doors to the active presence and participation of women in the Sacramental and liturgical life of the church.
Risking one’s life: The future that God offers is not security but the cross. It is an unexpected outpouring of the Spirit where the blind see, the lame walk; it is a call to shed one’s secure foundation to a selfless gift. We are servants in the vineyard of the Lord. The risk taken by the Magi is a great lesson of exploring the paths that cut across our paths. Along the journey of life we face these realities and are enabled to build on the strengths of each one as a community: self-knowledge is the basis of self-dignity. It enables the person to constantly move beyond the present to the attainment of the desired future.
May the new-born King, Jesus Christ, deign to grant us this blessing.
Happy Feast of the Epiphany.
Stella Baltazar, FMM
Stella Baltazar, FMM
Stella Baltazar is a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM). Born in 1952, she hails from the southernmost tip of India. Having earned her master’s degree in Sociology and Theology from the University of Mysore, Stella’s real learning comes from her involvement with the youth as well as women, especially widows. Baltazar had wide mission experience in the empowerment of women as women Development Officer at Coimbatore Diocese where in three years she helped establish 52 women’s associations in the diocese, and felt the power of women from the grassroots and their yearning for liberation from poverty, male domination and cultural oppression. This experience led Stella to seek ways to educate, motivate and mobilize women to emerge with self determination and take collective action for change. It was an experience that empowered her to reflect theologically and develop perspectives on Feminist Theology.
She was then invited by Caritas India to work at the national level with 64 dioceses in 1999 for four years, giving her enormous possibility to move around and learn within India and abroad, while creating networks of women’s organizations at the State level. She also served as consultant to Caritas Switzerland, a Member of Indian Theological Association, as well as president of EATWOT India. She has presented papers at theological as well as justice and peace forums.
Passionate about empowering women, especially widows, she is involved in inter-faith collaboration and also works on ecological concerns. She has moderated provincial chapters of several congregations and served at different levels of leadership in her own, and is presently the provincial of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Ootacamund Province, Tamil Nadu, India.
“My belief is ‘Every event of our life is sent by God for a very special purpose’ as said by our Foundress Mother Mary of the Passion and I am growing in the realization of that purpose. Women were my real life inspiration starting with my own mother.”
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