- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories ~ Epiphany: The Quest for the Joy of God’s Touch
Much of our life’s energies is spent in meeting other people, building meaningful relationships that mark us – a life long project. In doing so, we discover that we are always seekers, searching for and discovering who these persons are and how we can share our lives with them. They may be friends, neighbours, colleagues, classmates and most especially life-long partners and spouses. One might say that this is the great quest in our lives.
Some ten years ago when Pope Francis was beginning his role as pope, he sought to lay out some directions for what he hoped to bring to our faith community and the world. He did so in a very readable apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium). This was the beginning of his quest for what he hoped he could nurture in our faith community. In doing this, he was following in the footsteps of our ancestors in the faith – the early disciples of Jesus the Christ and the gospel writers on whose stories we depend as Christians and church.
What those earliest Christians and evangelists received and passed on to us was what they saw as good news, gospel, to bring joy to all. This joy of God’s touch is what Pope Francis seeks for faith community and for all humanity. “Gospel” and “joy” go together for the Christian faith. As Francis begins, he quotes his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (E.G. 7).
The great quest of our faith is the joy and hope that comes from discovering the relationship we can have with Jesus the Christ and through him with a loving God. As Pope Francis expresses it: “Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption…. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (E.G. 8).
The Gospel writer Matthew tells the story of wise men from the East (Matt.2:1-12). This is a story of epiphany. The wise men are seekers, searching for the one who would fulfill their dreams. Their quest leads them to following their star. It would take them on a long and sometimes perilous journey. Periodically they would lose their way. In these times, we can only imagine how these seekers were discouraged or found themselves doubting their journey. With trust and faith, with a willingness to risk however, they recovered the star. It took them to the place of their dream, their hope fulfilled.
Matthew points out that these seekers were “overwhelmed with joy.” In the simple scene of Bethlehem their quest was over. Touched by the hand of God they stood in amazement before the one they had been seeking. Paying homage through the gifts they gave, they offered themselves to the one they had been seeking.
The quest of these seekers is our own. It is our common journey of faith. It begins with hope and a dream. It takes us through challenges and doubts. There are times when the star we are following is clear and bright. At other times it is dim or even lost from sight. In the twists and turns that sometimes take us off course we seek help and direction. Our journey is filled with wandering, but also with occasions when we can be “overwhelmed with joy.” This is what it is to be a seeker, discovering that we can stand in wonder at how God touches the moments of our life.