". and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary ," (v 11)
Some months ago, for the first time in my life as a wife and mother, I was separated from my family for a period of nine days. As I bade farewell to them at the airport, just before checking with security, I will always remember and cherish their tenderness and brokenness as we faced the hour of departure. The repeated hugs, kisses and silent tears were an epiphany moment for me, a manifestation of an experience of God in the ordinary circumstances of my life.
Being separated from our loved ones brings us to the understanding of God being present and manifested to us through their acts of kindness, thoughtfulness and hospitality, as displayed in our everyday routine of family and community life.
Sr Mary Ethna Berkery (RIP) my principal when I was at school, would often read extracts to our class on the life of St Thérèse of Lisieux during our religious education class. She often stressed the "little way" of the saint and how she became a saint by basically doing the little things in life - acts of kindness, politeness and thoughtfulness demonstrated towards the sisters with whom she lived.
Her life was marked by simplicity and engagement in ordinary day-to-day living, such as working in the laundry and tolerating a sister who was giving her a difficult time. St Thérèse discovered God in the normal course of her day as she went about her daily chores.
I remember going to school one Saturday morning to do some pre-examination studies with my classmates when I caught sight of our principal armed with toilet brush and detergents, and clothed in an apron working away at the school toilets.
She lived by the maxim that cleanliness was next to godliness. That sight of Sr Ethna has left an indelible mark on my life. She, to my mind, lived the "little way" of St Thérèse. She made me realise that an ordinary activity like cleaning toilets was not too mundane for even the principal. Her dedication and devotion to duty was an epiphany experience for me.
This weekend, the Church invites us all to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. From the outset, I must admit that the word "epiphany" has an air of grandeur, splendour and majesty about it, conveying an experience that has nothing to do with us.
However, after reflecting on the gospel passage from St Matthew, I realise that the epiphany, the manifestation of God entering our human history as a baby, is deeply rooted in the ordinariness and utter simplicity of our lives.
The wise men, rich, wealthy and prestigious, reflected that open disposition and awareness of the discovery of God in the ordinary. They heeded the directive given to go to Bethlehem, a symbol of all that is ordinary, insignificant, routine and run of the mill, instead of looking for the infant king in Jerusalem, the city and centre of power, prestige, focus and attention. They changed their course, then, " set out " and fell to their knees at the sight of " the child with his mother Mary " in Bethlehem .
Nothing sensational, nothing spectacular, nothing earth-shattering - so humble, so human, so ordinary, so simple - " the child with his mother Mary' " -an epiphany, a manifestation of God, an experience of God's presence in family, in community. " They did him homage ".
Let us pray:
Lord, we thank you for the wise men as they searched for you on their journey in life. We thank you that they changed their course from Jerusalem and went on ahead to Bethlehem, which was by no means least among the leaders of Judah, and it was there, Lord, they recognised you and acknowledged your presence in the house with your mother Mary.
We thank you Lord for all the wise people in our world, our country, our government, our workplaces, our parishes, our homes, our communities, our schools, who recognise your manifestation in the day to day activities of their lives.
Lord, forgive us for the times when we fail to see you in Bethlehem . Unlike the wise men, we search for you in the dramatic, the sensational, the extraordinary, the city, the centers of power and prestige, we are blind to the epiphanies as revealed by our colleagues, our students, our family and community members as we live out our daily chores, duties and responsibilities. We do not recognise you in our homes, our workplaces, our culture. Forgive us Lord that we do not fall to our knees and give you homage.
Lord we pray for all who search for you. Give us the grace to go to Bethlehem , "by no means least among the leaders of Judah ". May we experience the "delight" when we come to the place where the "child" is so that we too can fall to our knees and do you homage. Amen.
Gospel Meditations for January are by Annie Gomes-Phillips. Mrs Gomes-Phillips is married to Ainsley and is the mother of Avion and Andrew. She is a parishioner of St Theresa's, Woodbrook and vice-principal of Fatima College.