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Turn to Jesus (Article)

An Epiphany reflection from a Haiti missionary

By Fr. Michael Mitchell, LC

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Today I write from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  I’ve been here for two blessed weeks during the Christmas season doing missionary work! 

My Christmas reflections and homilies have understandably taken on a very Haitian flavor.  The Epiphany is no different. 

An Epiphany is a Greek word that means “manifestation”. The Epiphany the Church celebrates today is the “manifestation” or revelation of the Christ Child to the World.  While we can speak of the Epiphany with a capital “E”, we can also speak of epiphanies with the lower case “e”.  The epiphanies of each day are the simple moments when we recognize God and his many blessings to us. Just as to the Magi the loving face of God was revealed in the form of the infant babe in the manger, so to us God’s love is revealed in many ways. A family meal, a moment of prayer, a helping hand, the sacraments and a baby’s laughter are all small “epiphanies” of our lives.

Adele was a small, frail Haitian baby boy that we found in the orphanage.  He was an “epiphany” for all of us.     

Adele had been at the orphanage for some days before we arrived.
His frail and malnourished body lay in a crib, his arm fixed with an I.V.  His condition was quite serious.  Months of lack of proper food and water had debilitated his tiny body. His prognosis was bleak.

The missionaries quickly took turns holding Adele, caring for him and praying for him. The words of Christ were kept in mind by all of us:  “What you do to least of these little ones, you do to me!”

Each one who cared for Adele was conscious of the presence of Christ. Adele was so weak he could barely move, his breathing was difficult.  However, his face radiated peace and occasionally he would give the missionaries a weak smile.  Somehow in that tiny face, the face of Christ was made visible, and all of us knew it.

We baptized Adele that morning, one of the missionaries becoming the proud Godmother.  As the day went on and Adele’s condition weakened we intensified our prayers for him. His Godmother maintained her bedside vigil until Adele was taken to the hospital, in hopes of better treatment. Adele however died that evening, the news reaching us early the next morning.  Life and death are all too common in Haiti.

Many of the missionaries had a chance to hold him, love him and pray for him before his passing. We did exactly what we would have done for the Christ child in that cold cave in Bethlehem. Adele became Christ for
us, we were able to see him with our own eyes, hold him in our arms. 

I can see Adele now safe in heaven with Christ, a bouncing boy full of life, running around the playground of heaven with the other children. No more tears, no more pain.  Just life and love.  While the death of a child is always a hard thing to see, somehow little Adele’s passing was a beautiful “epiphany” for all of us, a reminder that beyond this earthly life a greater and more abundant life awaits. 

As we gaze on the Christ child this Christmas season, I pray that all of you have received a personal “epiphany”.  Contemplate that moment, whatever and wherever it has occurred for you. Like the Magi, we can truly kneel in worship before the Christ child. And when you receive him in the Eucharist, that great Epiphany of love, thank him from the bottom of your heart!

Fr. Michael Mitchell LC is a chaplain for the Regnum Christi apostolate Mission Youth which has sent over forty missionaries to Haiti to provide spiritual and humanitarian aid to the poor affected by the earthquake. Mission Youth has sent 24 groups to Haiti since the earthquake, working in different parts of the city, mostly alongside the Missionaries of Charity.

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