by Fr. David Matz, C.PP.S.
Epiphany, January 6, 2021 will forever be remembered in history because of the shocking images that flooded our screens. On a day when we Missionaries celebrate St. Gaspar’s birthday and Christ’s manifestation of his love to the world, we experienced an out-of-control mob and insurrectionist assault on the U.S. Capitol.
For twenty plus years, our community has gathered on Epiphany to mark our doors, asking Christ to bless our homes and all who enter them. This year, the 12th day of Christmas was marred by images of home-grown terrorists breaking down the doors and entering the windows of our Capitol on a death hunt for our nation’s elected leaders.
I was most outraged when I saw the image of a flag bearing the name of Jesus carried by the insurrectionists, as if Jesus would condone this chaotic mob, fueled by lies and bearing deadly weapons, with the intent of overturning the legitimate election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Sr. Christine Schenk, CSJ offered this reflection in the National Catholic Reporter: “I could barely take in that this was happening at the citadel of my country’s democracy—let alone that the perpetrators would justify their violent behavior by invoking the name of the Prince of Peace.… I think it oddly providential—or perhaps synchronistic—that these horrific events occurred on the Feast of the Epiphany. An epiphany is a manifestation or an awakening. The deep-seated dysfunction—I would call it evil—plaguing our democracy in now plainly manifest. There is blessing in such an awakening, a painful clarity that will inform our choices in the days ahead.”
Clearly, Jesus, whose ultimate commandment is to love, does not condone this horrific conduct. So, what are we to do in response to these acts of hate? On this day that began with violence, 34 of us gathered online to pray. We had originally planned the door blessing for our Epiphany celebration, but instead we began by reflecting on the day’s events. We intended to forgo the blessing of the door until one of our Florida Companions mentioned the following prayer from our planned blessing:
O God, You send your light to those in gloom through your beloved Son—a gift to all the world’s peoples. Continue to bless us, even when violent Herod lives on, when we avoid risk, and fear a journey like
Act through us to bring light to a dark world, and teach us your broad, welcoming inclusiveness for all your daughters and sons. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
The horrific images of the terrorists breaking down the doors and the beating and crushing of a Capitol Police officer in a doorway surrounded by the mob were a reminder of the evil and darkness that still prevails in our world. Through the voice of a Companion, we were moved as Missionaries to bless the doors of our homes, reminding us that God saves the people through the blood of Christ who dwells within our homes. Though there was violence and hatred, threats on life, and loss of life on that day, we became signs of hope—open doors through which we walk in faith and help to rebuild our nation in this moment of anger and despair.
Later that night, following the Capitol riots, U.S. Representative Andy Kim spent almost two hours on his knees helping Capitol Police pick up debris on the floor of the Rotunda before returning to the congressional caucus to certify the presidential election. Kim’s response is a challenge to each of us: “We can kneel as humble servants to clean up the debris of fear and hatred. And we the people, all the people, can stand together in the long road of healing” (Fr. John Heagle and Sr. Fran Ferder, National Catholic Reporter).
In his video response to the riots, former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger stated, “We are to put on a servant’s heart!” Indeed, we must kneel and pray for our country, our elected officials—including the previous president—our law enforcement, as well as those members of the militias and hate groups who blindly follow a false god. Additionally, we must be humble servants who kneel to clean up the debris of fear and hatred. We need to name our own complicity in these events. We must vote for and support leaders who honor the truth rather than promoting false narrative of fraudulent elections. We must hold accountable those people who desecrated our Capitol. And finally, as Precious Blood community we must organize interfaith and interreligious networks to educate others on Christianity’s prime directive to “love one another.”
May this year’s Epiphany wake us up to who we are as Precious Blood people. May the Lord continue to bless us, even when violent Herod lives on. May the Lord bless us, even when we avoid risk and fear a journey like the Magi’s. May we bring God’s light to a dark world, and share a broad, welcoming inclusiveness for all God’s daughters and sons.
This article appears in the New Wine Press, February 2021.