Ut Unum Sint
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

It has been a long time, but a generation ago I was a student in an international course. In that class there were men and women from India, Indonesia, Korea, Africa, South America, Eastern and Western Europe, Canada, Central American, and the United States. It was a micro united nations. When we parted after a year together and prepared to go home to our respective countries, there were copious tears flowing. We have become one large family. Somehow we have experienced the meaning of the Lord's prayer, “Ut unum sint” - that they may be one (Jn. 17:21).

Action starter: There are potential friendships with people who are different from us.

Today, we are celebrating Christ's manifestation to the nations, otherwise known as the Epiphany of the Lord or more popularly as the feast of the Three Kings. Tradition has named the three kings as Melchor, Gaspar, and Balthazar. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the holy child, Jesus. Paintings of the three kings depict them as garbed in costumes of their different cultural origins. As today's gospel tells, they followed the star from the East to Jerusalem (Mt. 2:1)

God manifests Himself in many ways. At different times in our lives we may have experienced the breath-taking beauty of the sunrise, the limitless expanse of stars on a cloudless night, or the intricate designs on a buttefly's wings. Or we can be awed by the power of a storm and be terrified by a sudden earthquake. Such diaphanies or manifestations of God's power through nature give us a hint that there is a power beyond us. We did not create ourselves nor this universe that we live in. Somebody created us.

God has also manifested Himself in a special manner through the history of Israel. In a more concrete way, God chose to reveal Himself to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants. He revealed Himself not just as creator, but as one who is involved in the lives of His chosen people. He entered into a covenant with them. He got involved in their lives and saved them from oppression in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land, He remained steadfast to the covenant despite the unfaithfulness of His people. This was the theophany of God - God revealing Hmself in the Israel's history.

Finally , in the most specific way possible God revealed Himself as a living, loving, suffering, and celebrating human being. God revealed Himself in Jesus. This ultimate and highest form of God's manifestation is called the Epiphany. Not only does God want to reveal Himself to a chosen people, rather God chooses to manifest Himself to all nations. God invites all people through Jesus to become part of the Divine Family.

As St. Paul beautifully puts it, “there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles; God is the same Lord of all and richly blesses all who call to him” (Rom. 10:12). The apostle Paul is only following the invocation of the Lord Jesus that all may be one. This prayer of the Lord was spoken at a time when He was preparing Himself for the final hour. His mission on earth was about to end and He was going back to the Father. He therefore considered the unity of all peoples as an important part of his mission.

It is for this reason that today we continue the work of the Lord Jesus for the unity of peoples. Just as we continue the Lord's ministry of teaching, healing, liberating, and forgiving so we also continue to promote the reconciliation of peoples with one another.

The work of reconciliation of peoples is shown in the counselling and reconciliation of broken families. It is manifested in organizing communities and facilitating communal actions. It shows itself in advocacies for peace and inter-cultural dialogue. It is promoting ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. It is engaging in a dialogue of life with people who may be different from us.

We who live and work in this area of the country are in a unique and grace-filled situation. I venture to say that each one of us who live in Cotabato speaks at least four languages (not dialects). We work and live everyday with Christians, Muslims, and peoples of various ethnic origins. Our conversations are peppered with Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilonggo, Ilocano, Maguindanao, Teduray, Chinese, English, and Arabic.

Instead of seeing these differences as potentials for misunderstnding, shoudn't we see them as potentials for cultural and spiritual enhancement? Couldn't the hodge-podge of colors be turned into the beauty of a rainbow?

God desires all people to be saved. God wants to unite the human family. God who is One desires all to be one.