New Ways, New Paths
“I had an epiphany!” How many times we hear that expression, perhaps not realizing the full import of what it means. Epiphanies can come from external sources as well as internal sources. In my experience, I would say the expression of epiphany is the same as “seeing the light.” Both indicate that we see things in a different light, or understand in a new way, or somehow experience a revelation, what I would call a gift from God.
For me, the key to receive such new understanding or new insight is openness and curiosity, paying attention, listening, and taking time to reflect for the purpose, the intention of understanding. Such listening can be very transformative. The story of the Magi that we hear this Sunday is an example.
One of my many epiphanies happened when I was discerning the call to ministry at SFA. I was very adamant in the beginning that parish life was not a good fit for me. I was used to convent liturgies, all women group processes, educational settings, and facilitating groups in planning. Parish life was different. I was so near-sighted, so short-sighted, not being able to see myself in this role.
After saying “no” three times, I finally accepted the invitation to attend the Triduum. I didn’t just attend. I participated! At every part of the liturgies, I was drawn into the community experience of foot washing, of reverencing the cross, of renewal of baptismal promises and our experience of “wading in the water.” I saw the light, literally in the experience of God present in the assembly, in the creativity of voices and actions, in the welcome of every person I sat or stood next to each of the three nights. I experienced a new vision of what life could be like. I entered into the process of paying attention and was changed. I not only could say YES, but also did it with great joy. That joy continues even in the ongoing seeking of new ways, new paths in ministry and in parish life.
Last year in his Epiphany Homily, Pope Francis offered us this reflection on how our synodal listening sessions gave us the opportunity to enter into such listening—listening for understanding of the experience of others and not being afraid to enter into the experience of persons whose experience is different from ours. He gives us these insights about how the listening sessions in our parishes indicated that we too might take paths that are “another way” of being and acting. Like the Magi, may we too be blessed with new revelations as individuals, as parish groups, and as a parish community.
Finally, the Magi return “by another way” (Mt 2:12). They challenge us to take new paths. Here we see the creativity of the Spirit who always brings out new things. That is also one of the tasks of the Synod we are currently undertaking: to journey together and to listen to one another, so that the Spirit can suggest to us new ways and paths to bring the Gospel to the hearts of those who are distant, indifferent, or without hope, yet continue to seek what the Magi found: “a great joy” (Mt 2:10). We must always move forwards.