EPIPHANY OF VARIOUS SORTS
We’ve written about the Feast of the Epiphany before in these pages; the arrival of the wise guys to visit Jesus and worship the King of the Jews. This time around, I’d like to share three personal epiphanies I have had recently. In general, the word epiphany is from the Greek language; it means a rare manifestation, striking appearance, or an experience of a sudden realization. It can be used to describe a religious discovery or a scientific breakthrough where we might shout “Hallelujah!” or “Eureka!”
First, an epiphany I had when preparing for our Sunday Gamma Group; we gather on alternate Sundays with those disciples who want to dig a little deeper into our rich Catholic Tradition. We’ve been discussing the way our identity, discipleship, and call to mission flow out of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium. Towards the end of paragraph 48 we read this: “Already the final age of the world has come upon us and the renovation of the world is irrevocably decreed and is already anticipated in some kind of a real way; for the Church already on this earth is signed with a sanctity which is real although imperfect.” This statement is immensely hope-filled.
The final age of the world is sometimes called the Age of Christ, the Reign of Christ, the Age of the Holy Spirit, or the Age of the Church—it began with the cross and the Pentecost arrival of the Holy Spirit. This final age that we are now living in is all about the renovation, healing, fixing of the world. The renovation of the world is decreed—it is declared—it is put into spiritual law and put into action. It cannot be revoked. This is what is going to happen: the renovation of the whole world!! Our mission is to help “thy kingdom come.” There are hints of it, signs that this is in motion. I REALLY needed to hear this. How enlightening and exciting! It breathes purpose into everything.
Another epiphany for me was when I learned some details about the Immaculate Conception. This is the celebration of MARY who was saved from Original Sin by Jesus AT THE MOMENT of HER Conception. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was formally proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854. I came across the fact that at that time in Europe, the Enlightenment had led Europeans to think they could reach a perfect society WITHOUT GOD through education, government policies, science, radical independence, and other HUMAN efforts. Sound familiar? This Enlightenment epoch had many, many great and good things that came from it– But, whenever there are human efforts to bring about a perfect society without God, there is a strange counter-intuitive violence that always leads to the slaughter of innocent people. We’ve seen it throughout the history of the world. In the 1800’s Pope Pius witnessed the Enlightenment seeded the French Revolution, which led to the murder of many faithful Catholics and other Christians.
The epiphany was when I understood that the Pope declared that GOD ALONE can make us perfect by promoting this centuries-old belief that Jesus miraculously saved his mother at the moment of her conception—God does the work of perfection, NOT human effort. True peace, genuine justice only comes through the Kingdom of God. When humans promote utopia without God, it is always violent and always fails. It’s interesting to note that the first bishops of the United States in the late 1700’s consecrated the nation to Mary, under the title ‘the Immaculate Conception’ well before Pope Pius IX. In 1846, the U.S. bishops unanimously voted to make her patroness of the United States, a decade before the official title and doctrine.
A third epiphany of recent days was more like a remembering. In prayer, while wrestling with the craziness and busyness of this world and lamenting the frustrations of kingdom-building, God reminded me clearly: “This is not your work, this is MY work. Your job is to be faithful with what I have set before you.” The power of the Gospel is in the message, not with the messenger. Our job is to proclaim it and do our best to share it while we live it out.
With each of these three eye-opening insights, my trust is being restored. I’m reminded of the hopeful opening line Fr. John Riccardo shared with our Diocese some months ago: “Aslan is on the move!”