Pastoral Sharings: "Epiphany of the Lord"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Epiphany of the Lord
Posted for January 4, 2015

We celebrate today the Epiphany of the Lord —by which
  we mean the Manifestation of Christ to the World.

We commemorate the arrival of the Three Wise Men at 
the stable in Bethlehem. It is in some way curious that
  this encounter does not take place at some later stage in the life of Jesus at a time when he is more able to properly reveal himself to them.

But this is not God’s way of doing things; his ways are much more mysterious. In the Bible we are simply told that the Wise Men find their own way to Christ completely unaided by him when he is but a tiny child. They leave their gifts at the manger and just as mysteriously, without saying a word, they return home by a different way.

Matthew in his Gospel presents us with two contrasting approaches. Firstly God reveals himself through the Scriptures and through the words of the Prophets to the People of Israel; but secondly he also reveals himself through natural phenomena such as the star the Wise Men followed.

Ironically God’s more direct revelation through the words of the Prophets is ignored by those who should know better. And yet his very indirect and almost tenuous revelation by means of that star is noticed by the wise men who resolve then to undertake a very laborious journey to find the Christ Child.

These kinds of things are things are not confined to ancient times but are just as relevant to us today.

It is sad how many people who know the scriptures, and who have had the Good News thoroughly explained to them during their childhood, despite these great advantages somehow manage to drift away from their faith.

This is a problem we face every day in the Church and in our families. God gives us the great privilege of being brought up in a practicing family and reveals himself to us in all kinds of ways and yet this is still not sufficient to bring some of us to faith.

And on the opposite hand we see these Wise Men who go to extraordinary lengths to find faith and give due homage to the Christ Child.

I have often conducted classes for those who wish to become members of the Church and have sat in amazement as I listened to wonderful stories of how people have been very gradually but irrevocably drawn to Christ over a period of many years.

They have frequently undergone all kinds of difficulties and overcome extraordinary obstacles to finally get to the point where they can profess their faith in God and find their true home in the Church.

Each one of us has a story of conversion. For some it might be simple and straightforward, for others it might be very convoluted. But all our stories have at their foundation the simple fact that God is calling us to faith in him.

We come by different routes, some of them very curious, some of them very painful. But we are all being led through life on a great pilgrimage of faith sometimes despite ourselves. And the destination of that pilgrimage is not the pew in which you are sitting now but that much greater seat that awaits us all around the banquet table of heaven.

This Feast of the Epiphany with its marvellous story of Wise Men led first to Jerusalem and then on to Bethlehem and their avoidance of the trap laid by King Herod is not something just for the history books.

Nor is it merely a fable to demonstrate Christ’s openness to the Gentiles from the first moment of his presence in the world.

No, it is most of all a real challenge to each one of us. It underlines just how important it is that Christ came to reveal the Good News of the Kingdom to absolutely everyone in the world. And we who are his disciples are commissioned to spread his Good News to the ends of the earth.

That does not mean that we need to rush out and buy a ticket for some poor benighted place no one has ever heard of in order to preach the Gospel to its natives, though this should never be excluded.

There are plenty of people living right around us who have never heard the Gospel, or while they might have heard it never really understood what it meant.

Often enough, we don’t even have to step outside our own front door to complete this mission. Our task might even be most of all within our own families.

The symbolism of the star should not be overlooked as we celebrate this feast in which it plays such a significant role. The star represents the Light of Christ which drew the Wise Men to the truth.

Christ is indeed the Light of the World since he came into our world to bring light into darkness, knowledge to dispel ignorance, hope to overcome despair. He is indeed the one who all sincere searchers are seeking.

In Ancient Times this Feast of the Epiphany was considered more important than Christmas and indeed still in the East it is kept as a higher ranking feast. It achieved this status early in the history of the Church surely because the many converts from paganism saw in the story of the wise men their own story.

These wise men were guided by a star; they were led by God to the stable in Bethlehem where they offered the Christ Child their gifts and paid him homage.

The early converts to Christianity, like any convert today, realised that like those Wise Men they too were guided by God and led on a journey of faith and brought to belief in Christ. When they finally encounter him they place all they have at his disposal and worship him as the Son of God and the one true Saviour of the World.

They may not be rich like those Magi, but they know that they have come to the knowledge of the greatest treasure anyone could possess—belief in Jesus Christ.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
January 4, 2014

The Epiphany of the Lord, Year B—Sunday, January 4, 2015
In today’s Gospel, magi “from the east” ask, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” Just by asking this question, they herald the New Light that has dawned on all men.

Gospel (Read Mt 2:1-12)

Today, St. Matthew tells us that after Jesus’ birth, an event loaded with significance for the whole world took place. “Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,” looking for a king who had been recently born, the “king of the Jews.” Who were these men, and why did they ask this question?

The Solemnity of the Epiphany: The Mystery of Inclusion
It was a mystery.  It was a truth hidden for the ages.  It was revealed to Paul.  No one would have ever heard of it, least of all Paul in the days when he was Saul of Tarsus, pharisee and persecutor of anything that did not appear to be thoroughly Hebrew.  But the mystery was in Sacred Scripture.  It is just that no one understood the meaning of the verses. 

The mystery was this: all the peoples of the world would be included in God’s great promise to the Jews.  Jews and Greeks, all people, would be co-heirs in Jesus Christ.

Solemnity of the Epiphany
Isaiah 60, 1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3, 2-3.5-6; Matthew 2, 1-12

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
MERRY CHRISTMASTIDE. By longstanding sacred tradition Christians celebrate Christmas as a season, with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany as one long “Christmas day.” The season ends with the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas celebrations with friends and family, decorations, and all of the other means of rejoicing, should continue throughout the season. We can never rejoice in the Lord’s birth too much. As Christians, we will very often find ourselves living in contradiction to the styles and preferences of the present age. We should get very much used to the fact that we will face conflict among friends, and even at times within families, as we seek, more generously and more regularly, to live out and celebrate the mysteries of our redemption in Christ Jesus. …more

The Holy Name ofJesus (Part I of II)
1.  It is not difficult to meditate upon the Holy Name, or to use the Holy Name in prayer. More than any other name, perhaps alone among all proper names, it is appropriate to the One Who owned it. Usually the names of men are given at random; they mean nothing in themselves; a man who happens to be called John might just as well have been called Thomas or William; the mere name tells us nothing about him; it is a convenient means of distinguishing him from others, a label put upon him and little or no more. With a few human beings it has been otherwise : Adam, Abraham, Josue [Joshua], John the Baptist were given names that signified the men on whom they were bestowed. But with none is this so true as it is with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Christ’s Empire of Peace
An angel had appeared. The glory of the Lord—a mountain-consuming cloud of fire—had enveloped them. News of a miraculous new birth that would change the world had been announced.

On a forlorn hilltop of sleepy shepherds, resting sheep, and the occasional wolf, the gospel had been announced to a humble gathering of Jewish sheep herders in a most spectacular fashion, as recounted in Luke 2. After the heavenly messenger had told of a savior for the whole world, a baby in a manger, what more could be said?

Apparently heaven had one more thing to add:

God Saved the World Through a Baby
Within the octave of Christmas, we observe the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Saint John Paul II said in his 1994 Letter to Families (Gratissimam Sane), “To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family unit needs to make these forces their own so that…the family will be strong with the strength of God.”

Pope Francis: Large Families Represent Hope for Society’
VATICAN CITY — In an address on Sunday to Italy’s National Numerous Family Association, Pope Francis thanked the members of large families for their cultivation of virtues that benefit society at large, as well as themselves.

“The fact of having brothers and sisters is good for you,” he said Dec. 28 to the children among the some 7,000 members of large families from across Italy at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

Not According to Plan
There are the plans we make, and then there are God’s plans. Sometimes, they line up.

Take for instance last week. I thought I had it all figured out. Easy trip to the airport with one small caveat, the necessary requirement of bringing the old family dog into the friendly skies.

The Smallness of the Large
Just the tiniest little thing: Jesus Christ, lying in the manger. Those who have ever held in their arms a newborn baby, will know how delicate they are. Without a word, this fragile creature tells us to be careful with him. His neck is weak, and his head must be supported. Your attention rivets on the miniature eyelids, mouth, and nose.

One of the reasons I believe in God – the proper, Triune, Catholic God – is His way with paradox. This strikes me as true to my own experience of the universe we currently occupy, which is full to busting with scale reversals.

Listen for God in Peaceful Silence
One of the most admirable characteristics found in the life of Jesus Christ, our Master and our Model, is silence. All the mysteries of His mortal life and the in­effable mystery of His eucharistic life have this mark: the divine seal of silence.

For Post-Christmas: Unwrap a Bit of Silence
The silence of which we sing so wistfully at Midnight Mass, is at an all-time premium at Christmas; it is so difficult to find a silent night, let alone sit within one and become immersed in it, that the possibility of a seasonal soothing of the heart—a quieting of the grief of the world—seems the stuff of illusion and myth.

Christmas has, in too many ways, become the equivalent of an overdone theme-park vacation. By its end, one is knock-kneed with exhaustion and desperately in need of a genuine opportunity to rest.

Pope’s New Year Message: Embrace Gratitude and Reject Sin’s Slavery
VATICAN CITY — At the year’s end, Pope Francis reflected on Christ’s saving presence within time, cautioning against nostalgia for the slavery of sin, and encouraging gratitude that leads to repentance.

The theme of time was central to Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff homily, delivered during evening Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 31.

“The significance of time, temporality,” he said, “is the atmosphere of God’s epiphany, that is, of the manifestation of God and his concrete love.”

The Renewal of Catholic Cultureand the Flourishing of Human Society
In the Catholic intellectual community, there is a growing call for the renewal of Christian culture as a solution to the impoverishment of 21st century society. This intellectual movement has two momentums: on the one hand, there is an aggressive, necessarily confrontational rhetoric that speaks boldly in the public square. This part of the movement is calling for a more compassionate form of politics based on the dignity of the human person, the common good, and objective morality. Its greatest demand is for repeal, or prevention, of laws that allow violence to humanity, such as abortion and euthanasia.

Alice von Hildebrand on Fleeting Fads and Eternal Truth
The Catholic philosopher offers a solution to today’s ‘severe moral crisis.’

At 91, Alice von Hildebrand knows she is approaching the end of her life. However, she does not take this as an excuse to blithely give today’s moral problems a free pass. As devoted to objective truth as ever, she does not hesitate to challenge moral relativists or even orthodox Catholics who might be mistaken on a given issue.

If We Don’t Know It’s Sin, Does It Hurt Us?
It seems that people are less likely to recognize sin these days. So given that committing a sin requires a person to know it is a sin and freely choose it, does that mean there are less guilty people now? I posed this question to two priests: Monsignor Thomas Richter, Parochial Vicar of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, ND, and Monsignor. John Esseff of the Diocese of Scranton, PA who has been a priest for sixty-one years.

15 Quotes on Forgiveness &Other Ways to Annoy Your Enemies
“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

– Oscar Wilde

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

– Gandhi

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’”

– Luke 23:34

Earthly Sucker or Eternal Fool
The Magnificent Seven is one of the definitive Westerns, with timeless themes, Oscar-nominated music, gun play (and knife play),  and characters whose goodness or evil is never in doubt. Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) is one of the six gunmen that Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) recruits to help a small Mexican village raided periodically by marauding native bandits led by the evil Calvera (Eli Wallach).

When Chris convinces Harry to ride with him, Harry is certain that there is much more in this for them than simply saving the villagers from Calvera’s oppression: some big payday, some treasure that Chris is keeping secret. Harry asks, “Gold? Cattle? Payroll?” Certain that there is more, Harry agrees to help Chris and the villagers.

Ask Mary to Speak to Her Son
You cannot count the number of times in your life you have said these words: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.” Why do we do this? Why ask Mary to pray for us?

Many say “No need to get the Mother involved, just go straight to Jesus with whatever you need.”

You Choose Hell (or Heaven)
An inner voice says “That is wrong” or “This is right” and then one makes a choice – to freely do a human act. That inner voice is God’s voice through the spiritual smartphone of conscience.

The divine voice speaks in a language with the syntax and vocabulary of the Natural Law, a law mirroring the Eternal Law of God. The Natural Law is imprinted on each of us through our human nature. St. Paul speaks of, “The natural law, whereby each one knows, and is conscious of, what is good and what is evil.” (Romans 2:14).

A priest’s strategy for confession – 16 tips on how to make a good confession — and how to avoid the derp face.
Father Steve Schultz, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge, Virginia, offered the following tips on going to confession via his Facebook page this weekend.   

Some tips on going to confession from a priest who cares:

1. Prayerfully prepare! If you don’t prepare, it’s like practicing your Spanish at the ATM with a bunch of people waiting in line.

The Sins That Come From Being a Busybody – A Meditation on a Teaching of St. Gregory
Faults in others I can see, but praise the Lord there’re none in me!

The term “busybody” usually refers to one who is intent on the matters of others but looks little to his own issues. Busybodies also tend to focus especially on the faults, foibles, and troubles of other folks. Seldom are they chattering away about good news related to other people; more often it is the scurrilous and scandalous that occupy their minds.

Merriam-Webster online defines a busybody as  “a person who is too interested in the private lives of other people.” It is a form of sinful curiosity.

Thank You: Two Words That Can Transform Your Marriage
Every night since we’ve been married, my husband crawls into bed, turns toward me, and says: “Thank you so much for everything you did for us today.”

After a couple years, I asked Peter if he felt obligated to thank me every night. “No not at all!” he replied “You mean so much to all of us, and I want you to know how grateful I am.”

Does Evolution Contradict Genesis?
The theory of evolution proposes an explanation for how life in general and mankind in particular arose. It holds that that there was a long period in which natural processes gave rise to life and to the different life forms on earth.

This in no way conflicts with the idea of God. As the omnipotent Creator, he is free to create either quickly or slowly and either directly or through intermediate processes that he sets up.

Is Mary God’s Mother?
Each January 1st (on the Octave of Christmas), the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  I receive more comments and questions from non-Catholics, and even some Catholics, about the Church’s Marian practices and teachings than just about any other topic. Some want to know where we can find these teachings in the bible. Some even suggest that Catholics pay too much attention to Mary somehow leaving too little attention for Jesus.

Without the Church, Jesus ‘Is At the Mercy of our Imagination,’ Pope Says VATICAN CITY — In his homily on New Year’s Day, Pope Francis said that Jesus and his mother Mary are “inseparable,” just like Jesus and the Church, who is the mother of all humanity that guides her children to God.

“To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an ‘absurd dichotomy,’” the Pope told Mass attendees who were present in St. Peter’s Basilica for his Jan. 1 Mass celebrating the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

“[The Church] is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives him to everyone with joy and generosity … Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling,” he said.

“The Catholic who stood up to Hitler
It is impossible to read My Battle against Hitler by the German philosopher and theologian, Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977), translated by John Henry Crosby, without being inspired by its vital lesson: that you must always bear witness to the truth, even at great personal cost. These memoirs and essays, published in English for the first time, provide essential documentation of the thoughts and responses of a highly cultured man of faith when faced with the nascent ideology of National Socialism in Germany, in the 1920s and 1930s.

My Top Ten Favorite Saints
I have always thought it says a lot about Catholics as to whether they have favorite saints, and who they are if they do have special saints.  Here are my top ten.

10.  Saint Andreas Wouters-Most saints have been extraordinary men and women.  That was decidedly not the case with Andreas Wouters!  A scandalous priest, he fathered several children.  Suspended from his priestly duties, he was living in disgrace when God him the opportunity to die a martyr’s death, an opportunity he seized with both hands like a drowning man cast a life line. His courage and steadfastness redeemed his life of sin.  May all of us have such a happy death as he did.  Go here to read about him.

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