Encountering Christ - Feast of the Epiphany

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The proclamation of the Church at Christmas is that God has become man, or, as St John expressed, “the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us”.

God has revealed himself to humanity. God is knowable and God can now be encountered directly and personally through Jesus Christ. St John says at the beginning of his First Letter, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life”. 

This marks Christianity as unique. God who dwells in unapproachable light has chosen to enter the human condition and reveal himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Pope Benedict declared a special Jubilee Year of St Paul in 2008 and he invited the Church to reflect on the person and mission of the Great Apostle. During the course of this Jubilee Year the Pope, in speaking about the nature of Christianity, said that it was above all an encounter with Christ. He says that Christianity:
Is not a new philosophy or a new form of morality. We are only Christians if we encounter Christ, even if He does not reveal Himself to us as clearly and irresistibly as he did to Paul in making him the Apostle of the Gentiles.

Referring to the story of the conversion of St Paul on the road to Damascus he speaks of this encounter as not having to be some kind of dramatic experience, but something none the less real and life changing. Thus he says,
We can also encounter Christ in reading Holy Scripture, in prayer, and in the liturgical life of the Church - touch Christ's heart and feel that Christ touches ours. And it is only in this personal relationship with Christ, in this meeting with the Risen One, that we are truly Christian.

How have you met Jesus?  It may have been dramatic. But more likely it was a quiet and absolutely significant moment.

• Was it through Scripture? Did the Word of God speak to us as it did to St Augustine
• Or in prayer (perhaps before the Blessed Sacrament)?
• Or in the Liturgy?
• Or through the witness of a person
• Or through some key moment or experience.

Each of us has our own story of encounter with God in Christ. We would not be here today unless in some way Christ revealed himself to us.

This feast of the Epiphany is a feast celebrating the revelation of Christ to the world, through the story of the visit of the Magi.

In the Gospel there are many stories which highlight the effect of an encounter with Jesus. Consider briefly just two. Both reveal how an encounter with Jesus dramatically changes a person’s life.

• The woman at the well told by St John. In this instance the conversation which began on the physical level moves to the spiritual level.
• The account of the encounter with Zacchaeus shows how the Lord’s personal interest in him leads to his conversion. 
Again we can reflect on our own personal experience. How has Christ changed your life? Let us take a moment to consider our own experience.

For some it may have been something quite profound – a moment of genuine conversion. For many it would have been something quiet and gradual. In one way or another we have met Christ and our lives have been changed.

This encounter does radically change our whole perspective on life, on ourselves, on our relationships, indeed on every dimension of our existence. It is simply life-changing.

This encounter does not restrict or inhibit our freedom or opportunity in life. Quite the opposite. It opens up new vistas, new possibilities. 

Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005 at the Mass which commenced his pontificate said:
If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful, and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.

This is true for us, isn’t it?

The incarnation is the bold declaration that God wants to be known and experienced. God does not dwell in heaven hidden and unapproachable. God has revealed himself to us in Christ. To know Christ is to know God: “He who sees me sees the Father”.

Today on this feast of the Epiphany when the wise men from the East encountered the infant king and offered their gifts, let us consider how we have encountered God.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 5 January 2020