Feast of the Epiphany

Lift our Eyes
Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

How fitting that on this Feast of the Epiphany we are also beginning National Migration Week when our Bishops call us to reflect on the plight of migrants and refugees. The readings for Epiphany Sunday teach of the inclusiveness brought to our world by the Child Jesus. They also cause us to pause and reflect on the effect fear can have in our lives.

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah assures us that we need only to “lift our eyes” (Is. 60:4) to the Light of the Child Jesus and our “hearts shall overflow” (Is 60:5) with what we need to allow all people to live life abundantly. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul spoke directly of those excluded in his time. “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ep. 3:6) The exclusion of anyone due to racism, sexism, religious beliefs or country of origin is a denial of the good news of Jesus.

In the Gospel, St. Matthew writes that Herod was “greatly troubled” (Matt. 2: 3) by the news of a “newborn king of the Jews.” (Matt. 2:2) Fear led him to try to destroy what he perceived as a threat to his kingship and his power. Herod allowed his fear to cripple him, to justify hatred and to even sanction the killing of children. To save the life of their child, the Holy Family fled Bethlehem and lived as refugees in Egypt.

The psalmist gives instruction for those who wish to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. “Rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.” (Ps. 72:12) Over seventy year ago, Jewish refugees escaping Europe on the S.S. St. Louis were denied entry into the United States because of xenophobia and the anti-immigration policies at the time. The passengers, mostly families, were sent back to Europe. Over 250 of these men, women and children were killed in the Holocaust. Today, more than 50 million human beings are fleeing war and violence in their homeland. In Syria alone, over half the population has fled the violence in their country with the hope of finding refuge in other lands. How do we act? With the fear of Herod? Do we allow fear to cripple us and to justify hatred? Do we allow fear to cause us to act in a manner that may lead to the death of other human beings? Or do we act instead as the Magi, seeking the One who transcends all fear?

In the middle of December, choosing to act out of compassion rather than fear, the people of Canada welcomed the first of 25,000 Syrian refugees the country has committed to accept by the end of March. Let us pray that when fear overwhelms us, as it surely will in a world replete with terrorism and violence, that we have the courage to “lift our eyes” to the Light of the Child Jesus so that our hearts shall overflow with what we need to allow all our sisters and brothers in Christ to live with dignity.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

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