It was early January 1991, and my wife Karlyne and I had just moved from Lincoln, Nebraska to Omaha over New Year’s. A year earlier we had returned to Nebraska from our native Boston, hoping to find again the warmth and kindness we had experienced a decade before in the small south-central Nebraska city of Hastings. But this time our dreams of settling down, buying a house and raising a family there had been shattered by a form of provincial discrimination; while we had been welcomed and accepted in Hastings, we were eyed with suspicion and distrust in the larger cities of Lincoln and Omaha. We decided the best thing to do was to return home to Boston at our earliest opportunity, but since we were living more than a thousand miles away, landing jobs again in Boston seemed an almost insurmountable task. We were dejected and sad, and the weather did little to help how we felt – the entire month of January, Omaha never broke the freezing mark, and nighttime temperatures often fell to -15. More than once, the high temperature for the day, under sunny skies, was zero.
I was not yet a Catholic at the time (baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church), but in an attempt to lift Karlyne’s spirits, I went with her to Mass on Epiphany Sunday at Saint Margaret Mary Church, which was within walking distance of our apartment in Omaha. We arrived early for Mass, and as we sat down in a pew on the left side near the front, I saw Christmas wreaths still decorating the inside of the church. For a moment I thought of warm Christmas memories at home years earlier, but the sadness about our situation soon came back into my mind. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder, as if someone had come up behind me and wanted to get my attention without startling me. As I turned to see who it was, I was astounded to see that except for Karlyne, there was nobody physically near me for 30 feet in any direction. In that instant, I realized the only possible explanation was that it was the risen Jesus who had placed his hand on my shoulder to comfort me and let me know everything would be all right. It took 9 months of fervent prayer, but the consulting firm in Boston that I had left almost 2 years earlier to return to Nebraska hired me back that September. We have not left Boston since, and my faith has grown stronger in the 24 years that have followed; Karlyne was my sponsor and stood behind me when I was welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2008, as I completed RCIA instruction.
On Epiphany Sunday 2015, my wish for you is that you also experience an epiphany of your own, a personal encounter with Jesus. For me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that I will never forget.
Copyright 2015, David Hutchings