Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Epiphany: Jesus's continual entrance

The following was written by our current volunteer Ashley Strobel. Ashley ministers with high school students at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco. She wrote this post in preparation for our mid year retreat, and her questions challenge us to seek our own Epiphanies of Jesus’ continuous presence in our lives.

On Jan 8th, we celebrated the Feast of Epiphany, the Feast of the Three Wise Men finding the Baby Jesus. You might celebrate this feast by giving out gold chocolate coins or hiding a crown in a cake.  This is what I have done for many years past...until this year. This year I had my own personal “Epiphany” and I have come to realize why I am in San Francisco.

The word Epiphany means a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way. That moment happened to me the evening of the January 8th after the 5:30 Mass at St. Dominic’s. Here in San Francisco, I am very blessed to have the privilege to attend a Dominican Parish. On that particular Sunday, the Pastor of St. Dominic’s, Fr. Michael Hurley O.P, preached the homily. It was reflecting on his homily that made me really stop and think for a moment.

He asked three Simple Questions

1) Why did the Three Wise Men find Christ?
2) Where did they find Christ?
3) What’s Next?

Let me explain...why did the Wise Men find Christ?  They found Him because they were looking for Him. They left everything beyond and in a sense got a one-way ticket to find the Jesus. They had no information about where they were going besides the Star. How does it apply to you and me?  We will not find Jesus until we look for him.
Have I really been looking for Jesus?

Where did they find Jesus? They found Him in a home. The Bible does not say where the home is located, it just says a home. That home should be mine and your home.
Would the Wise Men find Jesus in my home?

And lastly, what’s next? The Wise Men were told depart by another way. In essence, thing cannot go back to the way that they were. We need to usher in this New Year with new changes in our life.
Have I made the necessary changes in my life?

Ashley experienced her own epiphany in St. Dominic's Church (photo by Cary Mauers)
For some divine reason, this was exactly what I needed to hear. After Mass, I went and sat in front of the Nativity Scene one last time this Christmas Season. And thought back over the past 5 months and how these questions applied to my months of service here. Not going to lie, the beginning of my year was really rough on me. I was living in a brand new city, 2,292 miles from the only home I have ever known. My ministry site was in an environment that I had never really experienced. I work in Catholic High School, even though I was homeschooled for 12 years. Not to mention I went from living with my family, to living with 15 sisters. My life had taken a complete 180 degree turn. For the first two and a half months, I felt more alone and more homesick then I had ever thought could be possible. One of the few things that kept me afloat was the fact that I firmly believe that God place me here for a reason and I had to continue to put my all my trust and hope in Him, no matter what. By the end of October, my faith in Him paid off because I was making friends, San Francisco was growing on me in ways I did think it could, and I finally could remember more than 5 students’ names!  And to add to that, by the time my Christmas break was over, I was looking forward to getting back to San Francisco, my work and my friends here. 

For a while, I really could not pinpoint what had changed or when that change had really happened. But then I thought, why bother?  My attitude changed and I am just glad it did. As I sat before the Baby Jesus after Mass, I realized that when I first came here I was looking for some big awesome reason for why I came here. By time November came around, I was just so tired looking for that reason that I stopped.  And when I did stop, I had more time to spend on what I was doing in that moment. Thinking back over Father’s Homily, I realized that I did not have to look for a reason, I just had to look for Christ. He was the reason I was here and He will always have a plan for me. By accepting that He, and only He, was the reason I was here, I had to look for him in the places I frequented the most, both in the convent where I live and in the school where I work. In other words, the place that I have learned to call home for the year. Lastly, what do I do next?  I live my life in this moment, doing everything to best of my ability for the Glory of God.

I want to end with two quotes. The first is a Children’s book that I just recorded for an AmeriCorps national day of service project. The book is called “The Three Questions”, inspired by Leo Tolstoy and written by Jon Muth. The second is a quote near and dear to my heart. It was given to me by a dear friend right before I moved here. It has helped through my lowest moments. They both continue to inspire me. I hope you are also inspired.

 “Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. This is why we are here.”
                                                ~ Jon Muth

“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
                                                ~Pope John Paul II

Ashley's snow angel from mid-year retreat