Today’s post is by guest contributor Sr. Rebecca White. Rebecca is an Ursuline Sister who works in her community’s archives. She has also been a nurse and an instructor of Women’s Studies at Brescia University, Kentucky. Rebecca identifies as lesbian and participates in New Ways Ministry retreats for LGBTQ+ sisters and conferences for them and their Leadership Teams, Vocation Directors, and Formation Personnel.
Today’s liturgical readings for the Epiphany of the Lord can be found here.
We celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord today, followed immediately by the Baptism of the Lord. On this day, we celebrate the epiphany of Jesus to the Gentiles; tomorrow, the epiphany of Jesus to himself, when he is told how God loves and delights in him.
The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek word “epiphano” meaning “give light, shine on,” or “be manifested, appear.” When I think about the Magi, the “Three Kings” (nowhere in the New Testament does it say three, though only three gifts are mentioned), or the wise people who came from afar to meet Jesus, I am reminded of us, the LGBTQ+ and ally community. We are often treated as Gentiles, outsiders. Just as the Jewish people of long ago did not deem Gentiles worthy of the long-awaited one, who would be Savior of their people only, so often, we are not recognized in our own day as worthy of having human rights or even living. That puts us there with Jesus, whose light shines on all.
Isaiah tells us that “your light has come, the glory of [God] shines upon you” (Is 60:1). In Matthew’s gospel, a new star leads to this One who is to be King of the Jews (or, as Catholics would have it, King of the Universe, celebrated this year on November 26, 2023). LGBTQ+ people and allies search and search. Is this the One who is to appear to us, the One to shine light into our closets, the One who comes to free of from the prison bars that those closets can become, the One to loose our bonds of condemning ourselves or being condemned by others?
The Magi came to look upon the baby Jesus. What if we look into the eyes and heart of this holy child and the adult he later became? When I look into the eyes, I see a glimmer of light, but when I look into the heart—ah!—a blazing light that blinds me to what I usually see. That bright fire allows me to see deeper truths, truths about who I am to God, truths about who I am called to be in this world.
By means of this light, what or whom do we see? Do we see a God of love and ourselves as part of that same loving light? Jesus’ baptism can open us to that blazing fire that shines in and through our hearts and lives.
As Jesus comes up from the water after being baptized by his cousin John, he hears the voice of God say, “This is my beloved with whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). I feel confident in saying that his mother had explained to him as best she could who he was, but to hear this other voice affirming what Mary had told him helped Jesus to see even more deeply into who he was and who he was to become. That experience must have been a whole new epiphany for Jesus, a bright light shining into his heart. He must have seen more clearly than ever before.
Just as Jesus gradually came to know the truth of himself, so we LGBTQ+ and allies come to see more fully who we are and whose we are. We learn more as our lives unfold. After the baptism experience, Jesus withdraws into the desert for forty days. In the same way, we too must deal with our own desert times. May we hold firm to our faith in God and in our own truth!
—Sr. Rebecca White, OSU, January 8, 2022