My Sisters and Brothers gathered for this Epiphany Mass. I’ve told you this missionary story so that with me you can appreciate and adore that Epiphany, in other words God’s Revelation, is both ancient and modern event. The Wise Men were given God’s revelation which led them to see in the star something more than an object in the sky. Because of God’s revelation they recognised in the star, a divine road sign on the road to God. The Wise Men didn’t go to Bethlehem because there was a piece of interesting architecture to check out, or because there was some excusive cuisine to enjoy, or because there was a luxurious fitness centre to spoil themselves. No, they went to Bethlehem because in that little town God could be found. God whose name was Jesus Christ was lying in the manger. However it is not just an ancient story. What happened in the African bush is another Epiphany, another God’s revelation. God didn’t send a star this time but he sent a Christian community to show the woman the way to Jesus.
This weekend we also remember another remarkable Epiphany. A hundred years ago, on January 1, in Bad Bergzabern, a German city near the border with France a Jewish woman and an acclaimed philosopher, Edith Stain was baptised at the age of 30. Some years later reflecting how she became a Catholic she remembered some events which were like her stars leading her to Jesus. One event happened when she saw a woman with a shopping basket casually walking into a church. Edith followed her to the church where she found the woman on her knees praying. Edith couldn’t help thinking that God was as obvious and normal part of that woman’s life like as shopping was. Another event was her friendship with a Christian couple. When the husband died Edith was struck by the peace which she saw in the widow. Edith couldn’t explain it any other way than that it was because of the faith in Jesus which the couple lived. The final touch of God’s revelation to Edith Stain was during a visit to some other friends when in their house she found the autobiography of St Teresa of Avila. Edith opened the book out of curiosity and spent the whole night up reading the book. Such simple incidents. Such powerful revelations and interventions of God. The accomplished and promising philosopher a few years after her conversion left her career behind and joined an enclosed Carmelite convent in Cologne, Germany, taking a religious name of Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. During the Second World War when the Catholic Bishops in Holland publicly condemned the extermination of Jews by Nazis Sister Teresa Benedicta, like many other Catholics of Jewish origin was taken to a concentration camp and killed. Today as we remember the day when a hundred years ago she was baptised we also venerate her as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
I pray for each of you, and for myself, so that we may have open and welcoming hearts and minds of the Wise Men to see the signs, the stars, God gives us to lead us closer to Jesus. Herod and his people didn’t have such hearts and minds. They missed God who was so close to them. They could have joined the Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem, to Jesus, but they rejected the Epiphany, the Revelation God gave them. I pray that what happened to the Wise Men, what happened to Edith Stain, our Catholic saint Teresa Benedict of the Cross, what happened to the woman in the African bush could help us to see God’s signs in our lives and to help the people whom we love and meet to see God’s signs in their lives too.