By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Manifestation (or Epiphany)

The three kings of the East visited over the weekend. In Hispanic cultures (possibly also in other cultures of which I am ignorant), children put straw for the camels in their shoes. The camels eat the straw overnight, and the kings leave gifts for the children. Only then has the Christmas season ended.

One of the benefits of so much immigration from Latin America may be that we Americans might take up this custom. It sure puts a different spin on events from a Santa Claus in whom St. Nicholas is hardly recognizable. I myself reinstituted this custom of "straw in the shoes" with my own children, as I fondly recalled how my parents as Cuban immigrants taught us to carry it out before Santa Claus took over even in my household.

The Pope's comments on Epiphany are, as usual, insightful for all of us, whether believers or not:

On the feast of the Epiphany, as we recall Jesus' manifestation to humanity in the face of a Child, may we sense the Magi at our side, as wise companions on the way", concluded the Holy Father. "Their example helps us to lift our gaze towards the star and to follow the great desires of our heart. They teach us not to be content with a life of mediocrity, of 'playing it safe', but to let ourselves be attracted always by what is good, true and beautiful. ... by God, who is all of this, and so much more! And they teach us not to be deceived by appearances, by what the world considers great, wise and powerful. ... We must press on towards Bethlehem, where, in the simplicity of a dwelling on the outskirts, beside a mother and father full of love and of faith, there shines forth the Sun from on high, the King of the universe. By the example of the Magi, with our little lights, may we seek the Light and keep the faith".

(Here ends the quote from Pope Francis' Homily for Epiphany, January 5, 2014, found in the Vatican Information Service article dated 1/6/14; the Vatican Information Service newsletter is a free email service that you can subscribe to at this link. It's a good way to avoid the misleading internet commentary of many supposedly Catholic commentators.)


1. Do not be content with a life of mediocrity. The commencement speakers are right: follow your passion for the true, the good, and the beautiful. If you fail--if "failure" even makes any sense to anyone who is on the road toward the good, try another route.

2. Be shrewd, cunning, and astute enough (as the Pope says in the parts of his message not quoted above) to avoid the gloom, suspicion, and envy of Herod's palace. There are many Herodian palaces all around us. They look quite lavish, large, and even magnificent. But they are full of darkness. The shrewd know how to take a route, as the Pope says, around such places and to avoid becoming their prisoners. Anyone with even some life experience can likely think of examples of such Herodian palaces in his own personal history. I like to compare such shrewdness and cunning to the American strategy against the Japanese in World War II: "island-hopping." Jump over and around the Herodian palaces to avoid getting bogged down in the swamps of gloom where we suffer high casualties, and instead keep heading toward your ultimate goals.

3. Let us press on to Bethlehem and to Nazareth. Those are the places where we want to be: places free of status-seeking, of conspicuous material consumption, of envy, of insecurities, of cynicism, of sarcasm, of unending comparisons and obsessively compulsive nit-picking criticisms, of fear, of traps, and of people seeking to humiliate or embarrass or control others. Seek the Bethlehems and Nazareths that can be found everywhere people are generous, positive, grateful, friendly, joyful, humble, authentically honorable and dignified. Seek the places of magnanimity. Then you will be able to help others on the way also find similar places.

This message tugs at the hearts of all human beings. We Christians diplomatically propose Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the historical models of all these good things.

(Images under fair use doctrine via Vatican Information Service and AP)