THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
The light of faith surrounds us and inflames us. We use the language of physical light to gain insight into faith. The Magi lead the way for us today. They are the great travellers, guided by smaller lights to the Light of the world.
We can easily see why the first reading opens today’s feast of readings. What Christian can fail to connect the mention of the great, shining world bathed in new light and the parade of camels and dromedaries from the East with unmistakably familiar gifts of gold and frankincense? Of course, we connect this to the Magi and the feast of Epiphany.
The story of the Magi is endlessly intriguing. It draws us like moths to light. But only the Gospel of Matthew tells the story. This is consistent with his whole purpose, which is to forge unmistakable links between the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Matthew’s Gospel initially addressed members of the Jewish-Christian community, who knew well their own Scriptures. Matthew intentionally adjusted Micah’s prophecy, “But you, Bethlehem- Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.”(5:1). In Matthew, this same prophecy reads, “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the princes of Judah” (2:6). Thus Matthew’s exaltation of once insignificant Bethlehem signals the need for a radical reorientation. The small will be great; the center of power will shift; a child will be king. The Magi are seekers and seers. They follow all the lights they are given. They find a child and see a king. They go home a new way; they go home renewed.
This feast day feels like it should be celebrated on the top of a snow-covered mountain flooded with light and bracing air. This is an exotic feast, a far cry from the quiet, homebound story that began the Christmas season. Here we have Eastern philosopher-astronomers mounted on dromedaries and bearing dazzling, mysterious gifts from the equally mysterious Orient. Not even the stars stay in place.
For all its greatness as a story, the story of the Magi appears briefly in but one Gospel. We are not sure of their home, their number, their occupation or preoccupation. They rise up out of the dark from the East like the rising sun itself and disappear as quickly as they appear.
Nonetheless, the Church sets out this amazing story and invites us to read deeply. The Gospel discloses the manifestation or showing forth of God (epiphaneia in Greek). We are asked to contemplate on this feast day the promise of God to the whole world, and to consider the whole world’s participation in that promise. Today is a feast of the universal or “catholic” Church.
Today the festival of Christmas comes full circle. Today the Church celebrates the light promised in Isaiah shining brilliantly on all nations and all people. The light reveals something of God and something of ourselves. The light of Epiphany reveals a God who wishes to dwell among us. Like the Magi, God has journeyed from afar to come to us.
TREASURES FROM OUR TRADITION
This largest Gothic cathedral in Europe today was begun in the mid-1200s to house the relics. In medieval times, the relics in a city’s possession were often the key to a sound international economy. The reliquary was last opened in 1864, and the remains of three men were indeed discovered. The cathedral is well worth a visit, with enormous twin spires forming the largest façade of any church in the world (it is the model for St. Patrick’s in New York). Construction began in 1248 and ended in 1880, a six-hundredyear project. Today, it is a World Heritage Site, described by the U.N. as “an exceptional work of human creative genius.” This great treasure of our tradition suffered fourteen direct bomb hits in World War II but did not collapse. It survived while the city burned around it, preserved, the townspeople say, by three heavenly patrons.
TRADICIONES DE NUESTRA FE
El Evangelio de san Juan comienza con una extraña revelación. Nos declara que al principio, Jesús no sólo estaba con Dios, sino que Jesús es Dios (Juan 1:1). Dependiendo de nuestra traducción de las Sagradas Escrituras, Jesús es nombrado ya sea “Palabra” o “Verbo” en el primer pasaje de Juan. Según una canción de Ricardo Arjona “Jesús es verbo, no sustantivo”. Y tiene razón. Hay que recordar que Juan no escribió en español, ni siquiera en inglés. El evangelista escribió en griego y aplicó el concepto filosófico del logos a Jesús. El logos, de la filosofía griega se manifiesta en Jesús de Nazaret. Para los griegos esta noticia era asombrosa, porque logos quiere decir palabra activa, es decir, el verbo que actúa y por el cual todo es creado. Juan declara que Jesús es este Verbo, él es el Dios que lo hizo todo y en el cual todos tenemos vida si actuamos como él.
El evangelio de Juan nos desafía a vivir el verbo que es Cristo, no sólo diciendo que somos cristianos, sino actuando como Jesús, cual Verbo Divino.
GOD’S PROMISE TO ALL PEOPLE
Today Isaiah reminds the people of God that the land shall be restored to their possession, they shall rejoice to see their people return from the bondage of exile, and that they shall be a light to the nations. In other words, through the people of Israel, the Savior shall come to all people who seek God with a sincere heart. This brings joy and the radiance of God’s glory to all the world and to all people everywhere. Through the fidelity of the people of God, and through God’s fidelity to them, all people shall become God’s children and rejoice in the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel.
LA PROMESA DE DIOS A TODOS
Hoy Isaías le recuerda al pueblo de Dios que recuperará su tierra, que se alegrará al ver que las personas regresan del cautiverio del exilio y que será una luz para todos los pueblos. En otras palabras, por medio del pueblo de Israel, el Salvador llegará a todos los pueblos que buscan a Dios con un corazón sincero. Esto traerá la alegría y el resplandor de la gloria de Dios a todo el mundo y a todos los pueblos. Gracias a la fidelidad del pueblo de Dios y, gracias a la fidelidad de Dios con ellos, todos serán sus hijos y se alegrarán con el cumplimiento de su promesa a Israel.
Where on earth would you go to honor the magi? Iran or Saudi Arabia, Tarshish or the Isles come to mind, but Cologne, Germany would be a good choice. There the Shrine of the Three Kings has been the centerpiece of the city’s cathedral since the fourth century. Today it is the largest reliquary in the world: a gilded and ornamented triple casket gleaming high above the altar. In the fourth century, the supposed relics of the wise men were taken from Constantinople to Milan, where they remained until the German Emperor with the unlikely name Frederick Barbarossa (Red Beard) gave them to the Archbishop of Cologne. Ever since, pilgrims have streamed into the city to honor the magi, the first of all pilgrims, and thus the heavenly patrons of all who have some holy wanderlust.
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Sunday reflections available in Spanish! DOMINGO, 4 DE ENERO DE 2009
SUNDAY, JANUARY 4, 2009
SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
Seeing with new eyes
Looking for a fresh start at the beginning of a new year? How about renewing your vision? That isn’t something your ophthalmologist can do with laser surgery. New sight goes deeper and penetrates the way we make decisions, prioritize responsibilities, engage relationships, and form new goals. Scheduling some time at a local retreat center or contacting a spiritual director for some new ideas might help. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also available to relieve us of old baggage, as are 12-step programs and support groups of many kinds. You don’t have to do it alone!
"Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn."
DOMINGO, 4 DE ENERO DE 2009
SOLEMNIDAD DE LA EPIFANIA DEL SEÑOR
Viendo con nuevos ojos
¿Buscando un nuevo comienzo al principio de un año nuevo? ¿Qué hay de renovar tu visión? Eso no es algo que tu oftalmólogo pueda hacer con cirugía laser. La nueva vista va más profundamente y penetra la manera en que tomamos decisiones, damos prioridades a las responsabilidades, entablamos relaciones, y formamos nuevas metas. El programar algún tiempo en un centro de retiro local o contactar un director espiritual para tener algunas nuevas ideas puede ayudar. El Sacramento de la Reconciliación también está disponible para liberarnos de las viejas cargas, como lo son los programas de 12 pasos y grupos de apoyo de muchas clases. ¡No tienes que hacerlo solo!
"Las naciones vendrán a tu luz, y los reyes al resplandor de tu amanecer."
MONDAY, JANUARY 5
FEAST OF JOHN NEUMANN, BISHOP
God’s way, not my way
At St. Alphonsus Church in downtown Baltimore you can visit the parish where Saint John Neumann served before he became a bishop. You can even step into his austere bedroom where a bed, tiny desk, kneeler, and picture of the Madonna make up his belongings. Simplicity was his obsession; becoming the bishop of Philadelphia certainly didn’t fit into that plan. Yet he embraced his office and took on the task of serving the burgeoning immigrant church by learning 10 languages and doing what was best for the people he served and loved. When God’s will speaks to you, try the gentle path of surrender.
"We receive from God whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him."
TUESDAY, JANUARY 6
FEAST OF BLESSED ANDRÉ BESSETTE, RELIGIOUS
Love is divine
A prayer to André Bessette, a brother of the Holy Cross order who spent a lifetime counseling and praying for people from his desk at the entrance to his community’s residence in Montreal, says: “Grant us the grace to imitate his piety and charity so that, with him, we may share the reward promised to all those who care for their neighbor because of their love for you.” Love comes from God, and we love others because we love God and find God’s love in our love for others. Speaking of poor people, but in words that describe all Christian love, Catholic Worker cofounder Dorothy Day once said we start by loving the poor for Jesus but we soon love them for themselves and see each one to be special. Today, find God in others and others in God.
"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God."
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7
Soft on the inside
How often have you walked down a street, looking down at the sidewalk, and not noticed a tree, or a sign, or even an entire building? When you finally notice it, you wonder how you could have missed it all this time. This phenomenon of not seeing what is right in front of us is not uncommon, nor is it limited to the physical realm. We are often blind to spiritual realities as well. When this happens, we know our hearts are “hardened.” What does it take to soften our hearts so that we can perceive the invisible—the love that surrounds and permeates us every moment of every day? It begins with desire, which forms an intention, which evolves into practice, which turns into prayer, which relies on God.
"They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened."
THURSDAY, JANUARY 8
Wisdom: Be attentive!
One can imagine Jesus’ neighbors, the elders, and everyone in the synagogue with eyes fixed on him when he claims that a familiar passage from Isaiah is being fulfilled right there, in their hearing. It’s likely they all heard him say it, but how many listened? Paying attention is risky. Maybe that’s why we love to cocoon ourselves in noise. The word, wherever God chooses to speak it, invariably makes demands on us—sometimes as a new challenge to new action, sometimes asking that we let go of expectations or old resentments. The crowd that heard Jesus rejoiced at first to hear his claim but seems to have soon rejected Jesus as too familiar, too ordinary to be the fulfillment of an ancient promise. Risky as it may be, unless we pay attention, we will not hear. If we don’t hear, we cannot listen. And without listening, we have no chance to choose to follow Christ.
"Jesus began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' "
FRIDAY, JANUARY 9
Compassionate rule breaking
Did you ever wonder why, when Jesus heals a leper, he always tells the guy not to say anything to anybody? Perhaps it is because the Good Lord broke a rule there. You see, according to the law of Moses, he wasn’t supposed to touch the leper. But he did. Jesus broke a lot of rules it seems. That’s why he got into so much trouble. But we’re thankful he breaks rules for us—such as, for instance, the rule about sin and death. As Jesus pointed out, the law was made for the sake of people, not the other way around. Mercy and compassion always manages to break a few rules.
"He ordered him to tell no one."
SATURDAY, JANUARY 10
The number one virtue
If you came to earth from outer space, the sheer amount of teaching on chastity—the virtue of expressing sexuality appropriately—would convince you that it’s the one non-negotiable item on your spiritual checklist. While chastity is essential, humility is the fundamental virtue upon which a holy life is based. Humility comes from the word humus, the earth. It reminds us that we’re dust—or “not the Christ,” as John the Baptist famously put it. As we decrease in centrality, God and others increase. Start from this “ground” and work your way up.
"John said, 'So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.' "
Contributors: Father Paul Boudreau, Alice Camille, Daniel Grippo, Father Larry Janowski, Ann O'Connor, Sean Reynolds, Joel Schorn, and Patrice J. Tuohy
©2009 by TrueQuest Communications, L.L.C. PHONE: 800-942-2811; E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org; WEBSITE: www.takefiveforfaith.com. Licensed for noncommercial use. All rights reserved. Scripture quotes come from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.