The gift that God most desires is the gift of ourselves

By: By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Christmas), Jan. 8

Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13; Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

I once was on a plane trip, sitting behind a young man who seemed to be quite pleased with himself. During the flight he continually left his cell phone on and periodically checked it even though the flight attendant asked that it be shut off. He sat next to a young woman who, it eventually became clear, had no relationship to him before that time.

However, when the flight attendant invited someone in the military to take a first-class seat that was vacant, this young man immediately invited himself, saying that he and his wife (the person next to him that he did not know) were in the military, which did not prove to be the case. During the flight it was nearly impossible not to overhear the conversation between the young man and his “wife” because of the volume of their words.

A very interesting insight occurred to me during that time. These two young people carrying on their conversation talked of many things that I tried to block from my hearing. What occurred to me was that they were two people searching, on their journey through life, trying to connect and make some sense of life in their own way.

At one point as we were landing, I heard the young woman say that for her, values had to be common between good friends. She mentioned specifically that she was Christian and that was important to her. “Are you Christian?” she asked him.

Journeys are the way each of us could describe our movement through life. We are on a journey, sometimes very aware of its importance and meaning, and, at other times, just putting one foot in front of the other.

Today’s Solemnity of the Epiphany is one of the most human and, at the same time profound, of feasts. It is our story, as well as the story of the Magi, on a journey toward the Lord. The very desire to seek and search for meaning is God’s grace luring us to God.

Our steps are sometimes halting, even taking us in an opposing direction. We seek through the guidance of a star . . . the star of God’s grace pulling us ever forward. We are sometimes stopped on our journey by temptations that cause conflict or pull us in another direction. We get distracted, not sure where the true path is.

The invaluable gift we have, the jewel we carry, is the desire to go forward toward the light, knowing in faith that the star leading us will take us to our destination. The journey is daily, often prompting us to give way to abandonment of the walk. The words of the Gospel anchor us: “And behold, the star that they (the Magi) had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.”

When we are able to divest ourselves of the voices and lights that would take us in the wrong direction, voices and lights that take us down a destructive path, we do as the Magi did. We follow that bright star, and reaching our destination, become overjoyed at the sight before us. It is the very presence of the Lord in our midst. We are at home with the Lord.

What often happens to us on this journey that might surprise us is that Jesus, in calling us forward, shows himself in the most unusual of ways and people. If we are unaware of the call of the Lord, if our journey is happenstance, we will undoubtedly miss the marks of Jesus’ presence along the way. We will overlook the presence of the Lord in the person we don’t understand or like.

The tragedy of that is Jesus’ epiphany is obscured. We lose the opportunity to offer our gifts to our God who so desires the gift of ourselves.


SISTER RACHEL Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. She serves as pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights.

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