Going Home: An Epiphany Message from the Dean

JANUARY 6, 2015

“… there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The paths that First Christmas were not all linear. Of course, following the Star was not likely to be a straight path. But it must have been shocking to those Magi that an offering of Radiant Love could be twisted into a story of violence and death so quickly. All they could do after weighing in with their gifts was to decide not to return to Herod. Thankfully, there usually is another road we can take.

I grew up disappointed that Mario Cuomo never embarked on the road to the Presidency. He was a hero to me, an abiding inspiration – because of his eloquence, his insights into the ethnic fabric of this great country, and his Renaissance man brilliance. He said he could not run for President and also be an effective Governor. He decided the opportunities to serve New York and its people were too important to jeopardize by suspending them during a national campaign.

Congress member Peter King, from the other party said, “Mario Cuomo was a giant of NY government and politics. As much as anyone he understood and appreciated the mosaic that was NY.” King remembered that the Governor raised the quality of discourse of both parties, as we debated the serious challenges facing the country.

When Governor Cuomo preached at my installation as Dean of this Cathedral in 2002, he instructed us to continue to be what the Cathedral had been – a beacon of hope and the Cathedral for all people. My mother was a bit shocked to be the center of attention when he referred to her roots as a Jew and my father’s as a Roman Catholic – both of them first generation Americans – as adding to my qualifications for this job. Mario Cuomo had followed the Star, and he understood how difficult and rewarding it is to believe in what it promises – abundant life for all.

That the former three-term Governor died just hours after his son, Andrew, was sworn in for his second term as Governor was poignant. President Obama paid tribute to Mario Cuomo by describing the "…Italian Catholic kid from Queens, born to immigrant parents, Mario paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service -- and we are all better for it… an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity."

The angelic warning was also poignant - to keep the Holy Child safe, the Holy Family had to leave Bethlehem quickly and head for Egypt. There have always been forces that would draw us from God’s love and threaten to destroy the beauty in each of God’s children. The paths we take make a difference – not only in how we protect and embolden our own self-respect and capacity to serve, but also in our capacity to encourage the dignity in everyone, everywhere. Each time we follow that Star, God’s Promise is manifest anew.

Blessings in this New Year from the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.