December 31, 2011

Epiphany Moments Drive Our Spiritual Life

An Epiphany Moment is when we learn something that changes how we think and how we live our life. The Wise Men have an Epiphany moment when they personally see the baby Jesus. They had been watching the stars for a divine sign for years and now, in a remote stable, they found God in a baby. Their thinking about God was dramatically changes and they responded by giving precious gifts only appropriate to a king, a priest and one destined to die a special death.

1. Epiphany moments help us overcome the “...thick darkness...” that is the norm (Isaiah 60.2)
The prophet Isaiah is developing a contrast between the thick darkness that seemed to cover the people and the radiance and joy they will experience when God intervenes in history. We have all had times in our lives when we felt this darkness. It can be like a black cloud that sucks the life and the joy out of our souls and leaves us feeling tired and depressed. For many people this is the norm in life. It is very easy to slip into the negative and even feel abandoned by God. But we have to be on our guard. We have to remember that Satan was cast out of haven for his rebellion and is even now still on the Earth stirring up anger and jealousy and deceiving people into believing they have been abandoned by God. When the times are dark we need to remind ourselves that perhaps this is a test of our Fath. When the times are dark we need to pray harder. We need to be particularly attentive to the petition in the Lords Prayer to “deliver us from evil “OR “the Evil One” OR “hard testing”. This is a way to deal with the “thick darkness” that we sometimes feel around us.

2. The Good News is the Epiphany moments “...revealed by the Spirit...” (Ephesians 3.5)
Epiphany moments are very personal. They do not come to everyone. Paul tells us they come to the “holy Apostles”. We are the Holy Apostles when we live out our Baptism in Jesus, when we maintain the Baptismal relationship. The conversion of Paul is a classic example of an Epiphany moment. Paul was a super orthodox Rabbi. He was on his way to stamp out what he believed were the heresies of the followers of Jesus. His Epiphany moment came in a blinding flash of light that knocked him off his horse and blinded him. He heard the audible voice of Jesus asking why he was persecuting Him? Suddenly everything Paul believed about Jesus turned around. Instead of persecuting the Christian community Paul became their greatest teacher and evangelist after Jesus. The important point is Paul did not learn about Jesus from a book. There weren’t any books about Jesus. Paul learned everything about Jesus from the oral stories of the personal experiences of the original Apostles. Christianity is a revealed religion where people share their own experiences of the Risen Jesus. This is your Baptismal ministry - what you are to do every day. Christianity is very different from a Philosophy or Religion based on intellectual ideas. Many very intelligent church-going people who know all the Theology in their heads still do not “get it”. They may  know about Christ, but they do not personally know Christ. Epiphany moments are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. If we are reading our Bible for example, the Holy Spirit helps us understand the meaning.

3. Epiphany moments bring us joy
Truly spiritual people look different. You can see it in their eyes. You can feel it when you are around them. The best way to explain this is a feeling of joy, the opposite of ‘thick darkness’. This joy comes from living our lives “in Christ”. It does not mean “like Christ”, in the sense of  trying to be a copy of Christ. Paul really means “in Christ” in the sense of joined at the heart and mind. This gives us a very different perspective on life. If we are really joined to Jesus than the Holy Spirit is connected directly to our minds, 24 hours a day. Just knowing this brings us joy. This connection also means that we are very likely to have Epiphany moments where our thinking changes dramatically. When we wake up each morning, the ideal question in our mind should be “What is Jesus going to do with me today?”

The challenge is to overcome the thick darkness around us
We live in a very confused and dark time, often surrounded by people who do not even think about their spiritual life. It is important to not let the darkness around us overcome us as well. Our own spiritual life depends on constantly reminding ourselves and others of the reality of God’s intervention in history through Jesus Christ. We re-read the Bible stories and remind ourselves of the times in our own lives when we have personally felt abandoned by God and then have had our own Epiphany moment. We were probably amazed that God was really there and that we were not alone. My own experience is that when I have felt most abandoned and depressed it is prayers of praise and thanksgiving for the little things that has been most effective in lifting the thick darkness. All the great spiritual teachers report going through times of great darkness. In many cases it was when they were focussing on their dependance on God that they had their greatest Epiphany moments.

Epiphany moments drive our spiritual Life

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