Our eyes have turned to the East this past week. We have seen images of unimaginable devastation. We have heard heart-breaking stories of people seeking loved ones. In no time at all innumerable lives were swept away and with them hopes and dreams for the future. This natural disaster has touched the lives of rich and poor alike. There were people who had traveled to a far off land for a bit of paradise as well as those for whom this paradise lost had been home.
A tragedy like this cannot help but make us wonder about the fragility of life. Suddenly and without warning everything is changed. Survivors are faced with the indomitable challenge of living without loved ones, without homes and villages, without. What is so frightening is that this terror is not man-made. Nor is it God-made (at least in the immediate sense). No, it comes from nature whose force and power is terrifying. Most often we only catch glimpses of this devastating power. Now our eyes are opened. It is a moment of epiphany. This "epiphany" is truly "awful", it evokes fear and wonder in us. It is a realization that we human beings are not "masters of the universe". It is an epiphany that reminds us as well that we are only "visitors", travelers, wanderers on this earth. We may call this earth home for a time but it is not ours.
Our eyes are turned to the East in this Epiphany liturgy today. We look to the east to see those magi, star followers, travelers from far off lands, seeking and searching for a newborn king. But Unlike the epiphany of which I just spoke, this epiphany, this revelation fills those magi with a different kind of awe. The one whom they were seeking whom they expected to find in a king's palace, they encountered in a simple dwelling, a child in his mother's arms. Their eyes were opened to see what the rest of the world could not see. This child was God's chosen one, no earthly king but so much more. The Gospel writer Matthew asks his listeners to see as the magi see, to recognize that this child revealed the essence of the divine. Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh each symbolize some aspect of this child's true identity (king, God and suffering redeemer). We stand in awe at the overwhelming realization that God is with us in the fragility and vulnerability of this one human life, the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Our eyes are turned to the East as we pray for those whose lives have been lost and for those who struggle to survive. We are asked to share some of our treasure to help bring some relief to those who are suffering. Somehow our faith in God's revelation in Jesus Christ asks us to believe that each person, each fellow traveler in this universe is part of us.