Susan Stevenot Sullivan, USCCB
Epiphany! The Magi left their bubble, their comfort zone, to follow a new star. They “went forth,” together, pursuing a beckoning light that promised a new reality, new priorities, a new relationship – one worthy of a challenging journey and the offering of their greatest treasures. The New Year begins with the Christmas season and an incrementally increasing amount of daylight in both our hemisphere and our lives. We may stop during this season to consider the gift of God-With-Us, born into our comfortable but sometimes stagnant understanding of our place in the world, into our continuing search for meaning and relationship. Unwrapping this gift of Emmanuel is a risky, but rewarding, process. What might be some of the beckoning lights promising new realities and relationships that can change the world – and our own lives? How can we seek more clearly the presence of God in those near and far? We start with those around us and go beyond to encounter the impatient people in line at the grocery store, the harried bus driver, the bewildered parent, the exhausted server at the restaurant, the person on the sidewalk hidden under a blanket, the commuter whose wheelchair is stuck on the curb, the family speaking in another language than ours. Stars for such encounters may also be found in the January calendar. The World Day of Peace message from Pope Francis on January 1 asks us to seek and encounter those who are victims of human trafficking as, “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters.” This week is National Migration Week. Where did your ancestors come from? What did they find in their new country? How can we seek and encounter those on the move today who are part of our “one family under God”? January 9 is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. We are a Church without borders, valuing the life, gifts and thriving of every person. How do we seek and encounter those who have left so much behind and who look for a new start and new opportunities to offer their culture and skills? January 19 is the national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How do we seek and encounter the lessons and sacrifices of the civil rights movement, and non-violent resistance, in the issues of racism and injustice that continue to fracture our one family under God? January 21-22 is the National Prayer Vigil for Life. How do we seek and encounter those who are most vulnerable from the beginning of life until its final stages? How do we understand each life as precious? January is Poverty Awareness Month. How do we seek and encounter people living in poverty, including the 2.8 million impoverished people who work full-time, year-round? The star that called the Magi to “Go Forth” was visible to all, but not all responded to the beacon in the gloom of night. May we be Magi, seeking and encountering our vulnerable brothers and sisters, experiencing a new reality and relationships through the gift God-With-Us. Every. Day. Susan Stevenot Sullivan is director of education & outreach at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.