BY KAREN MUENSTERMAN
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
A little over 53 years ago, I started kindergarten. It was a very big occasion in my life, because like a lot of other children of that era, I had never been to daycare or preschool, or really anywhere at all away from home. On the very first day of kindergarten, my mom walked me into the classroom and held my hand as she led me around the room.
“Let’s find your desk,” she said.
All the desks looked exactly alike to me, but my mom came to a halt in front of one of them and pointed to a rectangular-shaped piece of paper that was taped to the desk. It had some letters written on it.
“This is your desk,” mom announced.
“How do you know it’s mine?” I whispered nervously.
“Because it has your name on it,” said mom, pointing at the letters. “See? It says Karen.”
I was astounded because up until that moment, I only knew my name as a sound. My name was something that I could hear and say, but I had never realized that it could also be something that I could see! I stared and stared at that image of my name, trying to wrap my mind around this new representation of myself that showed up in the world as if by magic.
This moment of discovery was a small but significant epiphany in my life. It awakened me to a new way of thinking about my name and experiencing it.
Within a few days, my kindergarten teacher began teaching my class how to write letters; and very shortly afterward, I began to learn how to write my name. This was another astonishing occasion for me. My name was not just a sound or a shape, it was also a motion. Now my name was not only something I could hear and see, it was also something I could do. The ability to write my name gave me a power that I had not had before. Now I could label things as mine and verify ownership of my own work and belongings. I was mesmerized by all these different expressions of “Karen.”
Last weekend, we celebrated the Epiphany of the Lord, honoring the day three wise men looked upon a fragile human baby and saw a powerful King. Up until that moment, God was a being that people had heard about and talked about but had never seen. But suddenly, the God that had been only a sound in the world was now an image – someone they could see and touch!
For approximately 33 years, this human being that the wise men visited remained in the world – and those who knew him and followed him experienced one epiphany after another as they watched him do impossible things. He loved the unlovable, he touched the untouchable, he valued the worthless, he healed the incurable, and he forgave the unforgivable. He taught his followers a whole new way of thinking about life and a whole new way of experiencing it. Then, like the wise men and like all human beings, he disappeared into history.
Except … before he left them, during his last meal on earth, the followers of Jesus experienced another epiphany. At the last supper, Jesus revealed to them that God was not just a being that one could see and hear. God was also something one could do.
“Do this,” he commanded them, “in memory of me.”
Each time we gather for Mass, we are doing God – and God shows up in the world. And each time we love without boundaries as Jesus did, we are doing God – and God shows up in the world.
Childhood is full of epiphanies, but they are rare in adulthood. Do you want to experience one? Then do something that seems impossible: Turn toward someone who makes you want to turn away. Forgive someone who has done something that is unforgivable. Love someone who seems to be unlovable. Heal a relationship that appears to be unrepairable. And then come to Mass the way the wise men came to Bethlehem – expecting to see the King.