Sunday, January 07, 2007

Epiphany word, 07 Jan 2007

Epiphany (07 Jan 2007) Is 60. 1-6; Ps 72; Eph 3. 2-3a,5-6; Mt 2. 1-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Magi Followed a Star; Ricky and Diana Followed a Voice

We know the Christmas story very, very well. That’s good because the story of our God in the flesh is a nest for our ever-remembering, ever-expanding hearts. Our Christmas nest is no permanent abode. Mother birds wait away from, lure, even prod their ever growing, flightless children from theirs nests. Christmas is a traveling, exploring, risking story.

Born to Mary and Joseph, Jesus was a particular Jewish infant born in a particular Bethlehem in Judah over 2000 years ago. God’s human identity, God’s particularity as Jesus, had universal significance and worldwide purpose, which have personal precision for ever: all the sea will be converted to you, the strength of nations shall come to you.

From our limited, human perspective, we see God’s plan revealed in Jesus in its powerful, loving attraction in our personal experience. The entire story of Jesus speaks to our true selves in surprising ways. We open or close the door of our heart’s sanctuary to let in Jesus or not. Regardless of our choices, Jesus always waits with us and for us. The mystery of the magi is similar to Rick’s mystery.

A Russian child was born and named Vladimir, which means “ruling over the world.” He grew up in an orphanage outside Moscow until seven. (Hard to imagine anyone could rule from an orphanage, but we recall the magi were drawn to a manger-born child, whose name means “God saves.”)

Late in 1994 a National Public Radio program ran a story from that orphanage. The correspondent had met Vladimir and was taken with him. She desired to do something for him in part because he was an orphan; in part because he was beyond his years at that orphanage; in part because he couldn’t hold anything or walk due to a rare congenital disease that left him with no range of motion in his fingers, wrists, ankles and toes; in part because of his song.

He smiled, chattered and sang beautifully. The correspondent put Vladimir’s voice in the background of her story and let his song sound before she began speaking. On his way to work in Ohio, Vladimir’s future father happened to turn on his radio and heard him sing. Ricky described what he heard this way: “I felt a power in that boy’s voice. It was high and clear. I thought he sang with a little sadness, a certain wistfulness.”

The power wasn’t just the power of the boy’s voice, but power over Ricky, whose marriage to Diana almost ended because they could not have children. Vladimir’s young voice overpowered Ricky. He pulled over at a pay-phone, called his wife, and when Dianna answered, Ricky could say nothing other than, “Ah, honey, I just heard our son on the radio.”

Their story was a long, costly and miraculous one to adopt Vladimir, love him and seek surgery so that he now can walk. Whether we’re kids who want a baby brother or sister; or old enough to help care for one; or moms and dads whose love cares for life entrusted them, all of us enter the New Year well and enter the Gospel by longing to adopt Jesus as our own.

Pause 10 minutes each day this week to listen with your heart. Listen for the way Jesus calls, invites, sings to you. Ask for the grace to heed Jesus’ songs and follow his voice. Resolve to grow up with Jesus throughout 2007. A fine resolution prayer is none other than words of Jesus’ own voice, the Lord’s Prayer. Use it to close your 10 minutes and to open your new future of following our Messiah’s voice.

Source: “Vladimir’s Song,” Readers’ Digest (December 1999).

Photo by dleroy. Permission to use under this Creative Commons Deed 2.5

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