Tuesday, March 23 2021
I hope this issue of the St. John’s | San Juan Chronicle finds you safe and well.
I’m very excited about returning to the sanctuary and in-person worship beginning on Palm Sunday. And the reason I’m jazzed is that I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccination last week Sunday and I will be fully protected (almost) by Palm Sunday. Of course, I plan to continue masking and to practice social distancing, but attending church services is very high on my list of things I really want to do. I’m looking forward to being able to get registered once the new database is fully operational. Look for information about Realm!
During the Parish Health Committee meeting held a few days before the Vestry meeting, those on the team recommitted ourselves to the goals of building trust, transparency, openness, accountability, and social connections.
The St. John’s | San Juan Vestry met on Thursday evening, March 18, 2021. We spent some time doing small group breakouts to meet and greet and thereby get to know one another better. Everyone agreed that it was 15 minutes well spent at the beginning of the meeting. And, we did a “test run” of this Friday’s upcoming social connection, the “Heavenly Happy Hour” where this month we will do a Show & Tell event. There’s more information in other articles in this edition of The Chronicle! Please join us for this social time. We’re going to have a so much fun. Find your most interesting “thing” and be ready to show and tell about it. There are links to the event in all St. John’s | San Juan communications! I look forward to seeing you there.
I think the Vestry meeting went well. The new class learned a lot about what they have volunteered to do for the next three years (and I learned more about what a Senior Warden does). There is so much going on at St. John’s | San Juan, and it will be so for many months, as we move forward with the Capital Campaign, the re-roofing adventure, and figuring out how to sustain all of our programs and missions! Please read the Treasurer’s Report for more information on our finances. Other contributors to this edition will have lots to say about what’s happening at the church. I believe, with your continued support, the Vestry will do amazing work this year.
In addition to this Friday evening’s Zoom Show & Tell gathering, other offerings from the church include: book/Bible study on Thursday afternoons and a new program for Holy Week. We will read The Last Week by Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan which deals with Jesus’s last week, from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. Beginning on Palm Sunday at 9:00 am, those interested will meet via Zoom for 30-45 minutes to discuss the chapter for the day. I’m in! Of course, there will be all the actual Holy Week events to consider – live streaming and in-person. More information will be available in this Friday’s edition of The Messenger coming out later this week.
The Capital Campaign will be officially kicked off on Easter Sunday and run through Pentecost. Please be thinking about what St. John’s | San Juan means to you and how you can help reach the goal of a dry, seismically stable sanctuary along with new, more inviting and useful space where we will be able to gather for many years to come. We must complete this work for us as well as our future members! Won’t it be amazing to not see rainwater running down the columns?!
The Vestry is still seeking a Junior Warden. Ricci Weatherman left big shoes to fill! Interestingly enough, Father R.C. mentioned that because we have a volunteer to take care of the building’s issues (along with those others serving on the Renovation Project), our newJunior Warden does not have to be someone willing to climb up onto the roof. And, the Junior Warden may be a member in good standing at St. John’s | San Juan and does not have to be a Vestry member in order to serve the church in this capacity. If you feel a calling to learn about taking care of St. John’s | San Juan’s church building and grounds, please let me know.
As Covid-19 vaccinations continue to be rolled out to every adult who wants one, I look forward to being able to greet folks in person perhaps as early as July. We have each adjusted our lives to staying safe and healthy and I believe we are so close to being able to get back to some semblance of normalcy albeit a different normal. Like everyone, I long to be able to see (in- person) those whom I have missed so much for the past year.
Thank you for reading this far – basically I think I’ve just restated most information that’s already elsewhere in this edition. I am motivated to continue working to making St. John’s | San Juan better than before and especially by everyone on our Vestry and their commitment to being connected and invested in the church. Please remember that if you have any concerns, comments, issues, you may contact me on my cell phone at (360) 259-2933 or my church email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a wonderful, blessed Holy Week and Easter! Looking forward to seeing and worshiping with you soon.
Tuesday, March 23 2021
Build for the Lord a New Roof! Submitted by Michael Clifthorne
“Get thee behind me, Leaky Roof!” Matthew 16:23, Humorously Amended Version
As a thirty-one-year parishioner of St. John’s | San Juan, I can say without a doubt that I am ready to be done with The Leaky Roof. Like the Great Adversary, The Leaky
One, it has served as a powerful barrier to needed upgrades and renovation to the interior of the sanctuary for years. How can we direct time, energy, and money to
“So give me something new, where ceiling tiles don’t hang askew!” Poet, Renee Oelschlaeger
I recently came across a very short poem by Gary Snyder, haiku-ish in its brevity: “After weeks of watching the roof leak/I fixed it tonight/by moving a single board.” My first thought was, “Gee, we REALLY need to get Gary Snyder to attend St. John’s | San Juan because he’s got a delicate sense of just exactly how to shift things around.” It’s certainly a lesson in how even a slight change in our actions can have an important effect. Unfortunately, we are well beyond “weeks” of leaks, even decades of leaks. Are we aiming for a century? And we know that we are also beyond “moving a single board”, and that Gary Snyder’s efforts would probably pale in comparison to what our own Ric Weatherman and others have dedicated to the effort. Thank you, Ric et al!
So what makes the “something new” different this time? Personally, I am deeply impressed with the incredible preparation, assessments, and planning that lie at the foundation of this capital campaign. There have been a couple of forays into such campaigns in the past, but nothing compares to the careful, thorough, professional preparations that have characterized this campaign since discussion began three years ago. This project will rely on a team of professionals who’ve done extensive assessments of our building and put forth an expert plan for remediation and repair. I feel a confidence in this undertaking that is refreshing and inspiring, one that allows me to envision a truly leak-free roof, necessary safety-orientated seismic repairs, and the ensuing, uplifting remodel of our sanctuary space. In a nutshell, this capital campaign is something that my wife Lucy and I can step up to in a way that goes beyond the usual limits of giving. While it is a gift to ourselves and our church home, it is also a gift to those in our faith community who will follow us, long after we depart. St. John’s | San Juan’s sanctuary is a unique expression of our love for and faith in the Lord. That sanctuary needs our help in a significant way at this time. Lucy and I hope that you, too, will consider boldly stepping up to getting that darn Leaky Roof and its attendant problems behind us - once and for all. Let’s claim a new beginning! Please join us as we “Sing to the Lord a New Song, and Build for the Lord a New Roof.”
As you can tell by now, I’m prone to poetry, which I believe helps us capture essences of life. I leave you with this final excerpt from Joyce Kilmer’s poem about the wandering and homeless entitled “Roofs”. It spoke to me; it may you as well.
"They say that life is a highway and its milestones are the years,
Tuesday, March 23 2021
St. John’s Episcopal Church Treasurer’s March Report (March 23, 2021)
Finance and Audit Committees
The regular monthly meeting of the Finance Committee was held on March 16. Joining me were members Andrew Bird, Fawn Hacker, R.C. Laird, and Christian MacMillan. We reviewed our current financial condition and plans to address our operating deficit and generate additional revenue. We still need to stand up a small Audit Committee, ideally comprised of three members with a background in finance, which would meet only twice a year, before and after the annual audit in June. Pat Le Roy and Lou MacMillan have agreed to serve. If anyone from the congregation is willing and able to join them, please contact me (email@example.com).
Our Current Financial Condition
Our Budget Report for February 2021 may be found by clicking here or by going to our website, www.stjohnsoly.org, clicking on “About Us”, then clicking on “Our Vestry” and scrolling to the bottom of the page. The Net Income year-to-date of $89,390.74 includes the receipt of $115,000.00 from our unrestricted account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust, withdrawn to pay for the asbestos abatement work recently completed in the sanctuary. Payment for the work in the amount of $112,682.00 was made earlier this month. Income from Pledges year-to-date is over budget by $5,084.78 (13.4%).
We have received, signed, and returned documents from Bessemer Trust in New York City regarding a $10,000.00 unrestricted cash bequest and hope to receive the funds in early April. We have four additional sources of funds for operating expenses:
We have the following payables due as soon as possible:
At its meeting on March 18, the Vestry approved the withdrawal of $57,000 from our EIDL Account to pay these bills in full.
Given current levels of giving and operating expenses, particularly personnel costs, we continue to project a significant budget deficit for 2021, -$140,637.34 as of February 28. Our recent receipt of $63,367.00 in Round 2 PPP Funds reduces the projected deficit to -$77,270.34. We propose to address the deficit by taking the following steps:
…Bob Le Roy, Treasurer
Tuesday, March 23 2021
Renovation Committee March Update
The Sanctuary is Asbestos-Free
Well, at long last, we can shout, “We’re done with The Toxic Walls!” Advance Environmental finished asbestos abatement earlier this month, on time and under budget. Aside from one broken thermostat (since replaced with a brand-spanking new one), the work went off without a hitch. Below are two panoramic views showing “The Clean Walls,” – rougher and lighter in color due to abatement – but finally asbestos-free and non-toxic.
You’ve seen short videos and photos of this work as it progressed – construction of the containment, the huge plastic “curtain wall” that sealed off the chancel, workers perched in swaying lift baskets 40+ feet up – and now these two pictures. What you didn’t see (because I couldn’t shoot inside the enclosure) were pictures of the extraordinary measures required to protect the workers – and ultimately all of us – from the asbestos itself. Five negative pressure air handlers fitted with HEPA filters ran continuously, exchanging half a million cubic feet of air every hour. Workers in protective suits and full-face air-purifying respirators entered and left the enclosure through an airlock that contained a decontamination shower. All disposable protective gear and removed material was bagged, sealed and stored in a locked shipping container until removed from the site. It was a Herculean task, a kind of bunny-suited-aerial-act high above the Sanctuary floor – and it’s finished!
When we get back in the Sanctuary, take note of the newly exposed window frames and gaps around some of the stained-glass windows on the east and west walls. All those window recesses had asbestos-containing texture at the edges, so workers gingerly removed over 200 windows to scrape away that material, then re-installed the windows. As an extra precaution, they taped over the windows, applied a “fiber lock” spray to the walls to capture any stray asbestos fibers they might have missed, then carefully removed the tape.
You’ll notice too we elected not to expose the bare concrete along the column edges yet, for fear doing so might compromise the stability of windows nearest the columns. Rather than risk damage to the stained-glass, we will have general contractor FORMA perform this work later, as part of the seismic upgrades.
Deleting that work reduced the asbestos removal cost to $112,682. It’s a lot of money, but a good price in today’s dollars to detox our Sanctuary. Four members of our San Juan community – brothers Armando, Juan, and Gabriel Camargo, and Carlos Guzman – worked on this project and were featured in The Messenger on March 14th. Watch for more on them and the entire Guzman family in an upcoming Facebook video post for the capital campaign.
Moving Back for In-Person Worship
Preparing for Part I Construction
The first thing they’ll build is an enormous 40-foot high indoor scaffold filling the southern (red doors) end of the Sanctuary. They’ll lay one large plywood deck at the top level so workers can reach the timber purlins and car decking with chain- saws. Roof waste will be brought down in two trash chutes. (We’re checking the possibility of recycling any reusable lumber.) Additional decking along the scaffold perimeter will give workers access to the full height of the columns for exposing the bare concrete and bolting seismic clips spaced two feet apart.
Once the southern half is done, FORMA will take down and rebuild the scaffold on the northern end, in a somewhat different configuration to best access the chancel area. Filling the space between the two organ towers and topped by aluminum I-beams spanning from wall-to-wall above the towers, it will resemble a massive capital T. Heavy plywood decking will provide both a platform for the workers and protection for the organ pipes.
Based on FORMA’s plans, it’s clear we have a lot of work to do after the last of the spring music concerts. We will remove everything from the nave and chancel that isn’t nailed down: pews, chancel furniture, altar table, etc. What can’t be moved will need to be protected-in-place from damage and dust. One big job will be removing the old organ from the east chancel so that FORMA can replace that roof area. A volunteer work party will be needed to dismantle the wooden screens and organ pipes. We’d hoped another church in town that earlier expressed interest might still want the organ (and do most of the work!), but they’ve indicated they’re no longer interested. We’ve yet to determine the final disposition of the organ, but packing and storing it indefinitely seem out of the question.
We expect FORMA to start seismic work in June, first installing the X-braces, new concrete columns and in-fill walls, then replacing the roof in July or August to ensure the driest possible weather for opening up the building. Re-roofing will be done one bay at a time – a bay being the space between any two concrete ceiling beams – to simplify weather protection measures. We expect re-roofing to take about four weeks, with completion by September, before the fall rains arrive.
One related impact will be the loss of some parking stalls, likely just on the north side of the building, due to construction activity. More meetings with FORMA are planned soon, so we’ll pass on more details and impacts as we learn them.
Solar Power Array
Members of this work group are George and Karen Bray, Dennis Cooper, Bill Van Hook, Anne Hall, and Tom Loranger. They’re vetting the options, including Collective Sun, a nationwide nonprofit that helps churches and other tax exempts purchase and install solar systems at discounted prices and on favorable terms using a range of different funding models. This work group will hold its first meeting on March 31, and report its findings and recommendations to the Renovation Committee and the Vestry sometime in the future.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the renovation.
Tuesday, February 23 2021
It’s been a busy month, and it’s about to get even busier. We hope to move back into the Sanctuary in the first half of March once the asbestos work is done; we’ll announce that timeline in The Messenger once we know exactly when. And once we’ve moved back into the Sanctuary, we have another milestone to look forward to: the possibility of resuming in-person worship. Thankfully, the number of new cases of Covid-19 have been dropping in Thurston County, and unless there’s a spike in cases in the next few weeks, we will be planning on having Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter back in our sanctuary with a congregation in the pews.
To be clear, it won’t look exactly like it did on March 8, 2020, which was the last time we had in-person worship at St. John’s | San Juan. Congregational hymn-singing isn’t allowed under the current rules, for instance, and we won’t be able to do fellowship together following the services. Reservations will be required for each service, so we know exactly how many people are planning on attending and can ensure their proper social distancing. And we will continue to stream the services in all the same places we currently do, so anyone who isn’t comfortable coming back to church yet will be able to continue worshiping in the safety of their home. It’ll be a big step toward life returning to normal, after this season of social distancing and isolation.
We’ll have weekly updates in The Messenger as we continue to plan, and we will have more information on resuming worship in next month’s edition of The Chronicle. In the meantime, thank you for being part of this community, and we look forward to seeing you online this Sunday, and (hopefully) in person sooner than later.
Tuesday, February 23 2021
That being said, most of us met on February 18 to make follow-up calls for the Annual Pledge Drive. We’ve had some success in connecting with those parishioners who pledged in 2020, but did not submit a card for 2021. And, most have committed to filling out a pledge card for 2021. Filling out a card helps St. John’s | San Juan to plan better. In addition to these calls, there has been activity on the Capital Campaign. You will see the results of those meetings very soon.
The Vestry will be participating in some virtual sessions (starting soon and going for a few weeks) so we can get to know one other. Someone said that I was still holding a grudge because there was no vestry retreat last year. And, they’re right! Last year, the new class of vestry members never really had the opportunity to hang out with other “seasoned” vestry members. That’s because at the time we were scheduling the retreat, Covid happened. It’s taken me an entire year to feel like I know the other members, and now four of them have retired. Now we have a new team and we are still dealing with Covid restrictions. This year, however, we have time to figure out how to do mini-retreats to connect with one another so the new class can get to know the upper classes. There was no such luxury last year when the main focus at St. John’s | San Juan was just figuring out how to celebrate church on-line. Thank you, R.C., for hanging in there and getting it done!
We are also committed to engaging in some fun activities with our congregation. If you have any ideas for what might be a fun on-line event, please let me know. I hate re-inventing the wheel, so if you’ve participated in something that you thought was fun, perhaps we could recreate that. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via cell phone (360) 259-5933.
Please keep reading this issue since the others who regularly submit articles for The Chronicle will have done their job.
I do have a favorite story that I wanted to share. I don’t know where or when I found it, and I didn’t note the name of the writer, but it has always spoken to me. Enjoy!
God Has His Eye on You
Malachi 3:3 says: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”
This verse puzzled some women in a Bible Study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.
One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study. That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse that says: “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.” She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.
The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was a left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”
He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy – when I see my image in it.”
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.
Tuesday, February 23 2021
St. John’s Episcopal Church
With the addition of new members Andrew Bird and Fawn Hacker, regular monthly meetings of the Finance Committee will resume in March. We would still like to add one or two additional members to continue the work of this important committee. If you are interested in serving on the Finance Committee, or know someone who may be, please contact me.
Our Current Financial Condition
Our Budget Report for January 2021 may be found by clicking here, or by going to our website, www.stjohnsoly.org, clicking on “About Us”, then clicking on “Our Vestry” and scrolling to the bottom of the page. As of January 31, 2021, our year-to-date operating deficit was -$2,394.74, a positive variance to budget of $8,895.79 attributable primarily to the timing of the payment of some recurring bills in February rather than January. Pledge payments in January were $19,193.00, ahead of budget by $318.00.
We are still awaiting documents from Bessemer Trust in New York City regarding a $10,000.00 unrestricted cash bequest. We have two additional sources of funds for operating expenses: the EIDL loan proceeds and our (endowment) account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust.
The EIDL funds, $134,900.00, are currently invested in an Investment Advisory Account with Edward Jones. Currently, the market value of the account is $140,592.07.
With Vestry approval, we have withdrawn $115,000.00 from the General (Unrestricted) Account with the Diocese of Olympia Master Trust to apply to the cost of the asbestos abatement currently underway in our sanctuary. The current balance in this account is approximately $35,000.00.
Capital Campaign Update
Exciting work continues on our capital campaign! We have completed the writing and creative design work for our brochure, pledge card, and envelopes and delivered them to the printer. I hope you are enjoying our “Campaign Corner” updates each week in The Messenger.
I’d like to acknowledge and thank the members of our “Capital Campaign Team” for giving so generously of their energy, insight, time, and talent: Andrew Bird (Gift Worker), Caitlin Bird (Communications, Gift Worker), Jerry Campbell (Consultant), Michael Clifthorne (Gift Worker), Fawn Hacker (Gift Worker), Anne Hall (Campaign Coordination, Database Management), Lou MacMillan (Gift Worker, Photographer), Bob Peck (Campaign Prayer), Barbara Scheppele (Creative Design, Print Materials), and Tieran Sweeny- Bender (Administrative and Technical Support, Communications).
Early gift solicitation will begin on Sunday, March 7; our campaign kick-off will be on Easter Sunday, April 4, and we will celebrate the conclusion of the campaign on Pentecost, May 23.
We are accepting gifts to the capital campaign. If you would like to make your gift online, please go to our website to our website, www.stjohnsoly.org, click on the “Give Online | Done aqui” button, and select the new “Capital Campaign” option. If you prefer to make your gift by check, please make the check payable to “St. John’s Episcopal Church Capital Campaign” and mail it to St. John’s Episcopal Church, PO Box 977, Olympia, WA 98507. If you would like to make a gift of stock, please contact me at email@example.com for instructions on how to transfer the stock to the St. John’s | San Juan account.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions about our financial condition and capital campaign.
Tuesday, February 23 2021
RENOVATION COMMITEE – For the February 23, 2021 Chronicle
Part I Construction
Solar Power Array
Tuesday, January 26 2021
Welcome to the January issue of The Chronicle. This month is often a slower time in the life of congregations, but it has been anything but slow at St. John's. We're moving pews and other fixtures out of the sanctuary right now, so we can have a contractor come in and remove all the asbestos from the walls (and there's a lot of it). There's also Lent coming up in the middle of February, and preparations for Holy Week and Easter. All this takes quite a bit of planning in usual times, and it's doubly so during a pandemic, when every plan needs a "Plan B," and we're often reinventing how we do things to accommodate the realities of life these days.
One of the particular challenges of planning for Holy Week and Easter is that we're not only planning for remote services for those holy days, but we're also beginning to think about what it might look like to begin resuming in-person worship by that time. It's too early to say conclusively that we will reopen by then, but I'm hopeful that vaccinations will continue to help bring the number of new cases down, and we will be able to resume worship in person (though it will still be socially distanced, and it probably won't feel "normal" yet). We will decide in early March, based on the data available at that time. In the meantime, we will continue to stream services from our building (though starting February 7 it'll be from the Chapel instead of the main Church), and our programming will continue by Zoom for the rest of the program year.
My sincerest thanks to each of you for your patience and understanding as we have navigated this pandemic together. It brightens my day every time one of our members announces they've been vaccinated; it puts us that much closer to being able to be together again, the church gathered at our building, not each in our individual homes. In the meantime, I pray you all stay safe, and continue to be patient. Soon and very soon!
Tuesday, January 26 2021
The feast of the Epiphany: God’s beautiful revelation to all human beings.
Every year the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany. This is a memorable celebration that reminds us of those endearing Magi who came from the East to venerate baby Jesus. The Epiphany, as the Greek word indicates, is the feast of the manifestation of the child God to the world; it is a manifestation full of tenderness and sensitivity. The Epiphany also reminds many of us of those days back in our childhood when we expected the Wise Men to bring some gift for us on that special night.
Today’s Gospel tells us that those Wise Men decided to follow a star that would lead them to the presence of the world’s savior, a child named Jesus. This Gospel account shows us the impact that the mystery of Christmas has on us; it affects our imagination, our sensibilities, and our whole person. The birth of the Son of God is so important that the liturgical tradition of the church celebrates it on two occasions: Christmas and Epiphany. It is the same event: Christ is born and manifests Himself to all humanity.
The perspective of each Feast is diverse. Christmas mainly evokes the birth of Jesus as the Messiah announced to Israel and made known to the humblest of the people. The Epiphany focuses on the universal projection of Jesus presented as the Savior and Light for all nations.
For this reason, a star was born and is born this Christmas, and it will be reborn the following Christmases. That Star is what we call Jesus. We should ask ourselves the following questions today:
Have we found that star as we go on our daily way?
Have we found the star that fills our lives with joy when we are with our neighbors, with family, at work, and at church?
Have we found the star that invites us to leave our routine and discover new opportunities in this new year?
At the center of the Epiphany is the revelation of Jesus as the Savior of the World; to recognize him, we must start the path towards Him as the Light of the world. The child of God is presented by Mary, with the presence of Joseph, who is indispensable despite not uttering any words. God makes Himself present in the world through those who show Him through attitude, rather than with words.
The feast of the Epiphany of the Lord encourages us to recognize the Lord. It is not enough for God to reveal Himself to us; we must know how to see Him where He manifests himself: in a child, in poverty, in weakness, in innocence, in the son of a woman, and in the son of the carpenter. And that encounter with God requires a profound change from us. If we are believers, we cannot continue to hide our faith. If we believe in the incarnation of the Son of God, we do not have to go looking for God where He surely is not. And God is not in our prejudices, in our interests, on our side, or on the side of the powerful, but on the side of the weak, of the poor, of those who seek peace, respect, reconciliation, and a fraternal world for all.
To find God, like the Magi did, we have to allow ourselves to be led by the star, to go out of ourselves – of all that is ours, to go out to meet others, all others. If we decided to love our neighbor as ourselves, it would not be so difficult for us to believe in God. But, as long as we keep our eyes and our hearts turned towards ourselves, we cannot see our neighbor, nor can we discover God in a child in the arms of his mother.
In this Gospel of the Epiphany of the Lord, the liturgy focuses on the revelation of God to those who do not belong to the Jewish people, to those who are not among the people of the Covenant. In the letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul reminds us that “the Gentiles are joint heirs…of the Promise,” and in the Gospel it is the Magi from the East who came and “worshiped the child.” All this speaks to us of the universality of salvation: Jesus, the Messiah, has come for all peoples.
This is God’s lesson for all of us today: He has no exclusivity; He is not owned by anyone. The Jewish people believed that salvation was only for them, and today many Christians face the same temptation. God comes into our world for everyone and all peoples. We are the ones who set borders and create differences. We are the ones who distinguish between us and others, between natives and foreigners. But for God, we are all welcome to His kingdom.
Making us aware that God has chosen everyone is what can help us consider how to respond to Him with our faith and with our way of life.
The Magi allow themselves to be questioned by the star. They leave their comfortable corner of the world and set out. They search, they ask, and they are not discouraged. Finally, they are able to complete their journey and recognize the significance of what they found.
They saw the Child with Mary, His Mother. Falling on their knees, they adored Him. Faith must be seen as a wonderful adventure, as a call to get out of our corner, as an invitation to seek and accept the bits of truth that others are giving us, and as a reminder not to be discouraged when the star hides and when God is silent. Faith is opening one’s eyes from within and seeing things differently, with a different depth: God’s way. Faith is a learning to decipher His Word, which comes to us in another key–to discover His face in the other, His mark in life, His love in suffering.
The Christian feast of the Epiphany is the announcement of God’s salvation for all peoples and, at the same time, an invitation to open borders to live the faith in a more universal way. The Church must contribute effectively to promoting a world without selfish and unsupportive borders.
Today we celebrate the Epiphany. Jesus, by receiving the pagan Magi according to tradition, reconciles them with God, breaks the barrier of enmity, inaugurates the era of peace, and creates a new human being. Today God manifests Himself as He is: the God of peace and love, a diaphanous manifestation of a Kingdom without borders.
How do we recognize others as members of the one Body of Christ and discover in them the fruits of the Holy Spirit?
How do we achieve a friendly dialogue even with those who develop their life plans outside of Christianity?
We no longer doubt that the Epiphany is more than a feast and that it requires a hard commitment. We no longer doubt that we know how to carry out our commitment as Christians, as members of a single Body that encompasses all human beings without any distinction.
May the Light of Christ enlighten us all and accompany us in this new year.
The Epiphany is the feast of joy – the joy that Mary, Joseph, and the wise men felt; That is why it is good to remember that the joy of faith can overcome any moment of sadness and darkness.
And let’s remember the words of Jesus: I am the Light of the world; whoever believes in me will never walk in darkness.