by Chris McDonnell
On many occasions, when explaining something to children, whether in the classroom or when talking with my Grandchildren, I have frequently heard the words, “Oh, I see!” After words and careful exposition, after time and patience, and not a little frustration, realization comes and what was difficult to understand is made clear.
We often use the word Epiphany outside of its religious context, in exactly this way. Our appreciation of a complicated situation comes in a moment and we can move on.
The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th, when the recognition of the Christ-child is related to us with the arrival of the Magi. The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled and the story of the pilgrim people moving from Old Testament into New Testament days began.
Now, all these years on, who is there to do the showing? How is the Christ-child, whose Nativity we have just celebrated, to be shown to people of our time? We are continually being asked questions “Who are you? Who is this Christ whose name you carry? Is his message credible?
Others look at the witness we bear by the example of our words and our lives, the things we say, our actions day by day. What do they see? What do they hear?
Our hesitant journey does not go unnoticed, our mistakes observed and our successes giving pause for thought. The global reaction to the arrival of Francis in Rome is evidence enough that others notice not just enormous events but the small points that indicate attitude and personal values. From the time he personally settled his room account after the Conclave to his moving out of the Vatican apartments to occupy two rooms in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, from his openness, to his smile, all these occasions made people aware that someone had arrived who shouldn’t be ignored. So they listened to his words and pondered his teaching. Some, who have been estranged from the Church over recent years paused a moment and reconsidered. The editorial comment in the National Catholic Reporter for December 30th last noted that “A year ago, Pope Francis’ photo adorned the covers of Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, TIME magazine and The Advocate. The latter two named the pope their person of the year. Francis’ personal humility and simplicity, his common-sense rhetoric seasoned with homespun charm had captured the imagination of Catholics, non-Catholics and even nonbelievers. Acutely aware of the power of simple language and of images, Francis set about molding a pontificate for the age of Facebook and Twitter. Though he has little computer knowledge himself, Francis harnessed these tools for a new kind of evangelization.”
The address given by Pope Francis to the Curia before Christmas was nothing if not direct and he is to be admired for that. Stirring the gathered dust of years will always produce a coughing fit, whether it be in clearing a bookshelf, sorting out the loft or in asking questions of those whose position of authority is challenged.
From the time of that first Epiphany to our present era so much has changed. Our individual responsibility is enormous as we continue our journey. Let us care for each other on the way.
Chris McDonnell is a regular reader and commenter at Pray Tell.