The sermon on the Epiphany at our parish this year was both enlightening and challenging. Our priest spoke about the wise men following the “star” at all costs. Leaving behind family, security, safety only to discover the baby Jesus: the Word made Flesh, the light of the entire world, the King of all Kings. Had they not pursued this curiosity and wonder, what would have happened? Likewise, the apostles and the shepherds who encountered Christ. What if they stayed silent and played it safe …we wouldn’t be here with faith and hope in a future and hope of an eternal home of pure joy. Father Then asked us to choose someone, one person to start, to be a “star” for this year. To lead them closer to the Christ, or encourage them in a way that makes them wonder where we got this joy in us.
In thinking this over, I thought, “who has been a star in my life?” I can name a small Galaxy of them, but because one of my “stars’ has encouraged me to write about “stuff I’m thinking about” on this blog…I was reminded of my Junior high English and Music teacher. I went to a Catholic grade school and high school. When I hit 7th grade territory the girls became vicious. I was always a bit tentative and shy when trying to navigate how to fit in with the “cool group”. As Heidi Klum on Project Runway states “one day you’re in the next day you’re out.” I think I was considered ‘cool’ for a day or two. I felt lost and alone but my teacher and her husband who was a voice teacher, took a real interest in me. She encouraged me to start writing poetry and take singing lessons. I began writing at a feverish pitch and carrying around my handy thesaurus like a Gucci handbag. It was a cathartic way to express the anxiety and uncertainties of growing up and fitting in and it didn’t hurt that I started winning poetry contests, and had a poem published in a National book of Poetry in 8th grade.
This young Catholic couple constantly encouraged and challenged me to go for it. I remember riding back from our 8th grade graduation trip with my teacher, sobbing because I didn’t’ want to leave 8th grade or my elementary school and graduate to the Unknown chaos of High School. I protested that I wouldn’t make any friends and I longed to stay where I was finally accepted and loved and safe. She gently laughed and reassured me , again, that I was going to be more than fine…and she was right in retrospect.
All these years later I marvel how she and her husband recognized a bud in me and became a star in lighting a path I didn’t even know existed. Their encouragement helped shape the path of my journey and focused me on a career that I would have to gather a lot of “chutzpah’ to pursue…Hint: I t’s not poetry. A year ago I happened to find my favorite teacher on Facebook, and I wrote to let her know that her wisdom and faith in me was actually was a huge part of where I am today. I profusely thanked her. She was taken aback, and so grateful and surprised to be remembered.
So who will you and I become a “star” for this year? It’s so easy for me to stay in my comfort zone and be involved in things that only concern me and my family. But what if I became an open vessel that the Lord could use to lift a weary soul, or lighten someone’s load?
I’m guilty of being complacent and comfortable in my space…but we’re not meant to be a light hidden under a bushel…we were meant to shine. Not for ourselves, but to bring others to the one true Light. The Light of the World, without which, there is no joy.