The Epiphany Story is a familiar one. Magi from the east make a long trip to find Jesus. They get lost along the way, but finally arrive where Jesus is. Maybe the Story really happened, and maybe it didn’t. What is important is what the Story says. In the majority report, what the Story has always meant, Jesus is being made known to the world. The minority report can be much different if I am open to this possibility and willing to be led.
The minority report, what the Story says to me in my life as I hear or read It, offers me insight and context in my daily life, at times maybe insights I don’t want. The Story is a symbol of the journey I am invited make from my self-centered safe place to what I think of as the “other”. While we all have to make our journey of growing as we live in general, it’s up to me ifI want my journey to have a spiritual dimension. Many are not aware that there even is such a journey and just keep on doing what we’ve always done simply because we’ve always done it.
The Story is an invitation to take the chance and make my own journey. It is not so much about learning new facts or ideas, a journey of the brain, although the brain is certainly part of it. It is a journey of letting go of a lot — my need to know and feel in control, have answers for everything. It offers an increasing awareness of what really is, which often is not what I wish were, about who I am and who God is in my life, something I have a great deal of control over. I can choose to keep God at a distance, or I can let myself be led to know God as intimately involved in my everyday living, My questions become along the lines of “what are you saying to me here?”. The “answers” lead to other questions, and so it goes. This journey becomes the basis of my entire life as I learn there are no parts of my life that are “holy” or not “holy”. My life is one, and part of my journey is learning to recognize this.
My journey might take me to places I’d rather not go, perhaps to see things about myself that I don’t want to see. This is a humbling experience as it becomes increasingly clear to me that I am a sinner who needs God’s constant ongoing mercy just to get through the day, a new and practical insight into God having been merciful to me many times on my journey. It might also lead me to see other people in a different light. Pope Francis publicly proclaims himself to be a sinner, and he says that this realization of God being merciful to him in his life offers him new insight to God being merciful in the lives of other people. As is clear from current events around blessing persons in same sex relationships, many people have a problem believing God is merciful to people they don’t like for whom they love or how they see themselves. They are in favor of God’s mercy as long as they can decide who receives it. If I experience the grace of seeing myself as a sinner I might be less judgmental and more accepting of others making their own journey by their own star. We’re all journeying together. None of us has the answers for how others are supposed to live. I certainly don’t.
From time to time, usually in retrospect but sometimes as it is happening, I may see God leading me, but to where I’m not sure. I might experience of both of us being a team, partners journeying together. I have no idea where I’m going or what is happening, as with the Magi not seeing the star for a while. And again as with the Magi and Herod, I find myself looking in the wrong places, maybe creating my own version of god who agrees with everything I do, and doesn’t like the people I don’t like. This god gives me a sense of power and control, and lets me judge others who are not living by my standards. I know from experience this is not a good place to be, but I don’t realize it until I’m led to move on, itself a story of mercy and grace happening in my life a lot. And then God gently nudges me back on the right track, although sometimes it’s more like a powerful kick, pushing me to take chances I don’t want to take, and wondering where it is all going. It would seem that I learn the most from choosing to do things I really don’t want to do. These offer me insights about myself and my values as they really are, and not just as I would like them to be. It involves learning that what I want and my comfort aren’t all that important, and what others need really is. How can I help? There is not much certainty or security, but a lot of wandering and wondering, sometimes eager excitement, often rough times.
An illusion I need to get rid of is that I know where I’m going. Plain and simple, I don’t know, and every time I’ve tried to guess I’ve been wrong. I’m learning that I don’t need to know. What I need is to trust always and in everything and go where this takes me without any conditions. I may have some plans and goals, but they can be destroyed in an instant, and I’’m moved in an entirely new and unimagined direction, as recent events in my life have shown. There are always the unexpected happenings that just keep popping up. Inevitably these will involve new paths, choices, opportunities. I have to decide how to deal with each of them, trying to be open to grace, but not always sure that I am. Gradually I may become aware that everything in my life really belongs. I’m not being punished or tested. I’m being invited to grow to an ever-deepening awareness of what is, of God being God, which means letting go of the god I create for myself. As these things happen in my life, I may reflect the Magi who “went back to their country by another way”. After each “adventure” I probably see life a little differently, so I act a little differently. Some experiences are powerful motors of change. Maybe I’m aware this, maybe I’m not, but it seems that others are. Just sayin . . .