January 03, 2012
Epiphany of the Lord [Janurary 8, 2012]
One of the great marvels of modern life is the pace at which news of the world spreads. One can access a piece of information that occurs at a remote place in the world in a matter of seconds. News reporters are stationed in places I have never heard of. If I want to know what is happening at the Vatican, I can click on Vatican Information Service, and “boom,” I will know within seconds what the pope and the Roman Curia are “up to.” Some months ago the pope himself was given an I Pad and wrote a message to the world on Twitter. (Can you imagine that?) There was a time when, if the pope wanted to send an encyclical to bishops around the world, some messenger would have to travel by foot, mule, and horse or eventually by boat to circulate the letter. (Sorry, I forgot about the pony express!).
At the time of the Twitter incident, the pope made an off hand remark that modern communication is a new and blessed way to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ; the “New Evangelization,” he called it.
The pope is correct, of course: the words of Jesus by their very nature are meant to be spread beyond the borders of Palestine: the gospel is literally good news. I’m certain that if Jesus were alive in the world today, he would own an I Mac and he would be hooked up to the Internet. That would surely save a lot of blisters from walking the hot sands of the Middle East. Saint Paul, that great trekker would also chime in on that, I’m sure.
In short, news of any sort, good or bad in our time will spread almost instantaneously. People are always hungry to hear what is happening in the world around them and whether or not it will affect them.
Given that lengthy introduction, let me launch into the solemn feast that we celebrate during these early days of January 2012. It has a Greek title, Epiphany (i.e. to spread about). My biblical dictionary here on the computer tells me that it is a feast that tells of the divinity of Christ. All true, of course: news is spread of Christ the Son of God.
Now, a very interesting point about this description of the divinity of Christ is that the news comes to us not by way of the Internet the newspaper or any other modern mode of communication. The news of the divinity of Christ is tucked into a lovely little story about three wise men, three star-followers (gazers) who travel out of the East (the land of the rising sun) on word that in Palestine, in the West, the land of darkness they will find a divine, new-born king who will bring light and hope to the world. Their Global Positioning System will be a star, shining out of the East (the land of light again). The GPS will eventually point them to the village of Bethlehem where they will find the Divine Child, Jesus, along with Mary and Joseph, the parents of the child.
The point of the Magi journey is that they (foreigners, Arabs, perhaps) bring good news to the Western world that a savior of the entire world has been born.
Is all this simply a story? Did it actually happen? Most likely, it is fictional, but that does not make any difference. The point is that the birth of Jesus, the savior of the world was not to be considered an isolated event. The news was meant to be spread throughout the world. Early story telling was simply a way of conveying that reality. The fact of Jesus’ divinity is the central point; the mode in which that divine truth was conveyed to us is secondary.
One last point stands out so clearly in the Magi story. It is an ecumenical truth, a piece of theology. Note again that the people who discovered the divine child were Arabs, foreigners, and non-Jewish citizens. In other words the first news of the birth of Christ came from the mouth of foreigners. The ecumenical (theological) implication in all this is that the message of Christ is meant to pervade the whole world, Jew and gentile alike.
The final implication of the Magi story, of course, belongs to us: the good news of Christ, by its very nature, is meant to be dynamic, living, proliferating: we are meant to do what Jesus did, spread the word by mouth and action. We are not limited to walking sandy roads, of course. The task has become much simpler: we have the means right on our desk or on our laptop. There are endless sources to help us discover the meaning and implications of Christ’s work. It only takes a click on your mouse...and there you are. The fact that you may be reading this reflection on a local web site tells you how simple it is today. I’m sure the Magi would have loved it. No more sweaty camel trips, no more hot deserts to cross. Today the good news of Christ is literally at your fingertips. Now, how cool is that?
Posted by Cindy Lentine on January 3, 2012 10:33 AM.