Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 14, 2018
Connecting the dots…
The Christmas Season is over. We are now in a brief period of “Ordinary Time.” (Ash Wednesday is early this year…actually Valentine’s Day… make plans to take your sweetheart to dinner…BEFORE 2/14). So when I sat down to give some serious reflection time to this Sunday’s Readings, I expected to make a jarring leap from Bethlehem to Galilee, a span of about 30 years. The jump was softened for me when I shifted my attention from Jesus and His mission to the other characters in the story.
Fresh from the Feast of the Epiphany, I was still pondering the quest of the three exotic visitors from “the east.” The story of these seekers lacks detail, but we do know that they were willing to make an extreme, personal investment in order to be among the first witnesses to something extraordinary.
The Magi are called “Wise Men” in that they were aware of a promise from God to bring about a radical change in the world. They were vigilant for signs that this change was about to begin and confident that, through a spectacular star, God had provided a reliable guide for what they understood would be a most treacherous journey into the unknown. The three encountered the embodiment of sheer evil in the person of Herod. But the light from the heavens broke through that darkness and they continued their search.
Convincing evidence that they deserve to be remembered as wise is their understanding that they had found what they were looking for in the most unusual place…a stable. Perhaps the most convincing evidence of their wisdom, however, is their reaction: they prostrated themselves, offering gifts that proved that they fully comprehended they were privileged witnesses to the beginning of the Reign of God. For their efforts, they were changed.
On this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear, through John’s Gospel, the story of another “epiphany.” Also involving three seekers, these individuals probably were not considered to be especially wise, nor is it likely that they could afford costly gifts. Still, they were aware of God’s promise to send The Messiah, Who would usher in radical change in our world. Their faith in God’s promise motivated them to seek a deeper understanding of how and when this promise would be kept. And, even as God sent the Magi a star, these three very ordinary people enjoyed the spiritual guidance of John the Baptist. With a few powerful words whispered rather than shouted, John redirected their attention from himself, and it came to rest on the Person of Jesus.
They didn’t have to travel a great distance to find Him. Actually, it seems that He found them. Notice the similarity between the reaction of the Magi and the three we meet in today’s Gospel. Recognition!
At first, they called Him “Rabbi,” a sign of respect and an indication of their willingness to sit humbly at His feet and learn from Him. As the day wore on, there was a declaration of the fullness of their understanding. They recognized Jesus as The Messiah…the fullness of God’s promise.
With this initial encounter, they began a journey with The Lord that carried them into the unknown…with many dangerous encounters and experiences of evil and treachery.
They traveled across deserts, up to the summit of mountains, and crossed angry waters in the middle of raging storms. However, repeatedly along the way, they were amazed by the power, the compassion, and the love of the man who inspired them to put their very lives in His hands. At first, they thought their journey had ended at Calvary. But then, they were guided to an empty tomb…and ultimately to another hilltop, where, like the Magi, they gazed into the heavens until their attention was once again redirected…this time into the world where they were sent to continue the work that Jesus had begun.
And then, last Sunday evening, at 11:45 p.m., as the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany was coming to an end, The Star reappeared in the night sky over Saginaw, Michigan, and the century-long, wonder-filled journey of Sr. Bernardone came to an end. She was guided out of time and into eternity, where she encountered The Christ and paid Him homage. She had no exotic gifts to offer. Rather, she laid before the Lord the same gift that Andrew and Peter brought to Jesus that day described in John’s Gospel…her very life. And the Lord was well pleased.
Even as a young woman, she showed enormous wisdom, trusting that God’s promise to make a radical change in the world had indeed been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Like the Magi and the Apostles and disciples, Sr. Bernardone made the ultimate personal investment, committing herself to a life of contemplation, prayer, and service. She spent a century giving convincing witness to all whom she met on her journey that something extraordinary and unrepeatable had happened in Bethlehem. Moreover, through her vocation as a Poor Clare, she taught us how what was begun back then continues today through those who humble themselves before The Lamb of God. She deserves to be remembered for her wisdom…but it was her humility that shines through the darkness.
The words of St. Clare were always on her mind and in her heart. We become what we love and Who we love shapes what we become. Sr. Bernardone loved God with all her heart, with all her soul, and with all her mind.
And so we pray as St. Clare prayed: Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for He Who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be You, our God, for having created this wise woman…who lived among us and taught us and inspired us to be holy.