In Peace we pray to you Lord God,
The celebration of the Epiphany is usually associated with the three wise men discovering the baby Jesus, worshiping him, and giving him gifts. The arrival of the Magi is a sign that Jesus’ birth is known to the Gentiles; it is a sign that this is a birth significant not just to the Jewish community, but to the whole world. And if Jesus is truly the King of kings, the Lord of Lords, then Herod’s reign does not have the same significance that Herod once thought.
We have also come to think of an epiphany as an awaking, much like Saint Paul’s Damascus road experience; a moment when we see things in a new light.
This year our celebration of the Epiphany was overshadowed by violence and destruction in the nation’s capital. “Coup”, “insurrection”, “attack on US democracy”, many words have been used to describe the horrific events in the Capital Building and surrounding grounds. The word that least likely comes to mind when viewing these images is “epiphany” but perhaps that is exactly what it was - an epiphany.
A Damascus road experience of seeing God for the first time would be a preferred epiphany, but seeing evil may be just as impactful - if we respond by turning to God.
Fr. James Martin, SJ said it well in a social media post on Wednesday: “Today's violence at the US Capitol, a national disgrace, is the inevitable result of the endless lies about the election… Here we see the result of these lies, the fruit of sin: anger, hatred, discord, despair and violence. This is what sin does, especially sin on such a large scale.”
On Wednesday, The Feast of the Epiphany, we witnessed evil. The evil did not just appear on center stage, it has been cultivated over weeks, months, years, decades, and centuries. This evil has ebbed and flowed, and in recent years, with the fertile grounds of social media, has been carefully cultivated with many enablers refusing to trample it down. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
When Saul, a persecutor of Christians, traveled along the road to Damascus he was confronted not only with God, but also confronted with his sins against God. Saint Paul, literally blinded by the light, saw clearly for the first time. It would be my prayer that the events of Wednesday, which can not be erased, are also not wasted and now become for us an epiphany - a light by which we now turn away from evil, choose to trample sin, and turn to God.
By most accounts it was about three years before Paul began preaching and traveling to spread the Good News of Christ. While his epiphany may have been instantaneous, it took time for reconciliation and reparations to be made so that he could spread the Good News. It took three years for Saul to become the Paul that we know and hold up as a saint.
It too will take years for the work that comes from the epiphany that we witnessed over the course of several hours to take full effect. It is our responsibility to not let this moment, or any of the other times God has shown us the way, to go to waste. It will not be easy, but we are not alone in our work. God is with us for each step we take towards God.