The feast of the Epiphany, the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah to the Gentiles, reminds us of the power of faith and the transformative presence of God in our lives.
There was once a monastery that had fallen on hard times. Once it was filled with young monks and its great church resounded with the singing of God's praise, but now it was almost deserted, with a handful of elderly brothers struggling to pray and work.
On the edge of the monastery woods, there was an old rabbi who had built a little hut. He would go there from time to time to fast and pray. Whenever the rabbi was there, the monks felt blessed by his presence.
One day, the abbot of the monastery went to visit the rabbi to seek his counsel. The rabbi welcomed him warmly and after praying together, he made tea for the abbot.
As he set the cups on the table, the rabbi said to the abbot, "You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts. You have come to ask a teaching of me. Very well. I will give you a teaching - but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must ever say it aloud again."
The rabbi leaned in and looked straight into the eyes of the abbot. "The Messiah is among you," he said. "He lives among you now."
The abbot was shocked by the rabbi's words and left the hut without a word. The next morning, he called his brothers together and told them about the teaching he had received from the rabbi, but warned them that it could only be spoken once and then never mentioned again.
He looked at each of his brothers and said, "The rabbi said that one of us is the Messiah."
The monks were stunned by the abbot's words. They wondered if Brother John or Father Matthew or Brother Thomas could be the Messiah. They were all puzzled by the rabbi's teaching, but faithfully obeyed the abbot's instructions that it never be mentioned again.
As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a special reverence. There was a gentle, peaceful quality about them that was hard to describe but easy to notice. The few visitors to the monastery found themselves deeply moved by the life of the community.
Before long, people were coming from miles around to be nourished by the prayer of the monks. More and more brothers joined the community. As the monastery began to rebuild, the joy of their prayer once again resounded through their church - and hearts.
The old rabbi was never seen again, but the old monks, who had taken his teaching to heart, forever felt his presence.
This story reminds us that the Messiah, the savior of the world, is among us. He is present with us in the midst of our struggles, in the community of believers, and in the sacraments of the Church.
When we open ourselves to the presence of the Messiah, when we allow him to transform our hearts and minds, we become instruments of his love and grace.
So let us remember the words of the old rabbi as we celebrate this feast of the Epiphany.
“The Messiah is among us. “
He is present with us in our joys and sorrows, in our struggles and triumphs. Let us open ourselves to his presence, and may our hearts be transformed by his love. Amen.