We are invited to be bearers of light

  • December 25, 2013

Epiphany of the Lord (Year A) Jan. 5 (Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12)

Epiphany has always been associated with light and hope. Since each year we celebrate this feast with the same readings, we might ask how the past year has been different from any other year and what 2014 might hold for us.

It is very easy to focus on the familiar tales of blood, betrayal, dishonesty and darkness that are our steady diet throughout the year. Perhaps it would be helpful to deliberately seek out signs of hope and express our gratitude.

Our Pope has captured the hearts and imagination of the world and there are signs of the Church’s renewal and healing. It appears that war with Iran has been avoided as saner minds have prevailed. Then there are the countless millions of souls dedicated to serving the light and easing the burdens of others. One such bearer of the light is Dobri Dobrev, a 98-year-old Bulgarian hermit. He dresses in ragged homemade clothing and lives in a tiny, crudely furnished room.

He walks 25 km to Sofia to beg on the streets. He has donated the entire 40,000 euros he has taken in to restore crumbling churches and monasteries and to pay the utility bills of orphanages.

Dobri has been called many things — saint, hermit, grandfather and angel — but is most known throughout the city for his kindness, humility, gentleness and warmth. He is but one of many.

Prophets have the strangest sense of sight. In the midst of apparent prosperity and stability they can see doom and disaster gathering on the horizon. On the other hand, they can also see light even in the thickest darkness and hope where there is only despair and heartbreak.

There was great disappointment and disillusionment following the return from Babylonian exile. The temple remained for the most part in ruins, only a shadow of its former self. The same applied to the nation of Judea — the land was poverty stricken and its people rather listless and unenthusiastic about reform. Isaiah — or most likely one of his later followers — saw only light and glory rather than darkness and gloom. The nation would have a great future and be a beacon of hope and light to the world. Cynics may have greeted this prophecy with derision and disdain for there are some who take a perverse delight in negativity.

But those whose hearts were not yet dead responded with joy and hope.

Humanity may have to pass through many dark tunnels, but God stands at the entrance and the end of each one and we are never alone.

Each day we make a choice to witness to either light or darkness by our words, thoughts and deeds.

Light and goodness have a drawing force that knows no barriers and accepts no labels.

The light that came into the world to redeem humanity may have been born in a remote corner of the Roman Empire, but it shone immediately into distant lands and hearts.

The first to venerate Jesus were priests of a foreign culture and religion. They were also seekers, scanning the signs of the times and the heavens not only with the senses and intellect but also the heart. A long and perilous journey seemed like a small price to pay for the great privilege of being in the presence of the divine light made flesh.

Although light is an attractive force for most, for others it is fearful and repellent. Those whose positions of power and dominance stand to be undermined by the divine presence usually lash out immediately.

Others fear that their deeds of darkness will be exposed before all. Herod suffered from all of those weaknesses and more, and he frantically attempted to seek out and destroy this perceived personal threat. It was not to be; God’s plans will never be thwarted.

In the coming year, we can scan our world with the openness of mind and heart of the three magi for the divine presence in diverse people and places.

Honouring and reverencing that presence is only the first step. To truly make God manifest, which is what Epiphany means, we are invited to become bearers of the light.