The Epiphany of the Lord – 3rd January
Circumstances can often dictate our response to how we live. Whether it is the continuing effects of the pandemic or simply putting on a few extra kilos over Christmas there can be a tendency to feel that our life is out of control. This is often when we start to make resolutions that sound good but resolve little because our heart isn’t in it. The move towards action always needs to emerge from who we are as a person and what we consider as central to our lives. This may well be that some of our best intentions don’t come to pass because they suggest that we should become a different person rather than a better person. They suggest that somehow we don’t have the motivation or the willingness to commit ourselves to a particular course of action. This is where we need to discover that we are already blessed by God with the ability to respond as our true self. It is this self-knowledge which calls us to be less critical and freer to respond as we can and not as we can’t.
I believe this is where our prayer and honesty before God helps us to not talk at God or talk at ourselves. There can always be a belief that there must be some special formula which will allow us to come closer to God or for God to become closer to us. Yet the reality is that God is already present to us and it takes time to quiet our spirits to listen to what is actually going on within. This is not just about thinking the right thing but rather living that presence of God within our own skin. There is a need to engage our mind, heart and body in prayer. This is where we discover to be whole and holy. God does not come to an ideal version of ourselves but rather is receptive to us as we are at the moment. When we can start to see God at work in the ordinary events of each day we start to relax and allow our direction to be motivated by how we are present to this moment and this day. It is not about trying to experience extraordinary events and expecting miracles at the turn of every corner. Rather it opens us to the possibility that God already aids us to find the right direction and the obvious next step. This is important even when we make mistakes or fail to live up to our own expectations.
There is a need, however, to recognise that we live in the real world in which the mystery of God’s love unfolds. We live in the midst of the environment in which we are planted. This means that our relationship with others and with creation matters. We are not people who are called to manipulate to our best advantage but rather discover the gentle interplay which guides us to hear God’s voice. This receptiveness allows us to notice what brings healing, encouragement and generosity to the places in which we live. We start to notice what brings life and what does not. By noticing the areas in which we are truly life-giving we find the confidence to feel God’s hand at work. There are lightness and surrender that God works with us and labours for us in seeking the good.
It is from this place of reflection and appreciation of our environment we start to see what particular gifts we put into action. This allows us to see a natural extension of our prayer and study to the events of daily life. We become orientated towards the goodness which brings life to our community. By noticing that each person has a gift to offer we start to realise that life is not hard work but rather an offering which enables others to flourish and grow. Our interactions become blessed rather than burdened. We freely give what we have received. God enables us to be gifted with the generosity to be ourselves. This is where we discover that we are formed and transformed more and more into the person God desires us to become. Our goals and achievements are the fruits of who we are, not the determiners of our own worth. We shape the world by cooperating with God’s grace rather than being shaped into a person we do not recognise. In all things, we seek to become our true self, created in the image and likeness of God.
Fr. John Armstrong