Solemnity of the Epiphany, Jan. 4
Mt. 2: 1-12
Some people have called the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel a miniature Gospel, a Gospel all in themselves. These two chapters deal with the infancy narrative of the Child Jesus. The story in today’s Gospel selection of the so-called Magi, or astrologers, is part of this infancy narrative. This particular story is also called the Epiphany of the Lord and is the Solemnity we celebrate this Sunday. Epiphany means a manifestation, a proclamation, an exclamation, a shouting from the rooftops that the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, has come to save his people. The same Epiphany story also shows the universal nature of God’s plan for reconciliation and salvation. Jesus came for the redemption of all people.
There are some who have expressed the opinion that these infancy narratives are simply “baby stories” or childish tales with little or no foundation in reality. There may be a little of this, but at the same time we must remember that they are part of Matthew’s Gospel and, as such, like all the Scriptures, are inspired revelation, good news, about Jesus.
Today’s Gospel story shows the refusal of the news to accept the new king, to accept Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. And it also shows his acceptance and worship by the Gentiles, among whom are Matthew’s astrologers. They followed the star to the child’s birthplace and they believed and accepted him as the One who is to come. There are some natural explanations offered by some for the appearance of the “star”, but more important than this conjecture is the theological reason for the star: stars are used in Scripture to herald the birth of a great person and Jesus certainly qualifies for this category.
Practically, for me, is the mention in the story that after the astrologers had visited with the child, they chose to return to their own country by a different way, a different route. This indicates to me that they adopted the ways of Jesus in their acceptance of him. All of us did this when we finally encountered Jesus as the Son of God. For many years I did everything my own way until Jesus’ special manifestation to me in my time of trouble and need. After this, I followed his way, and happily still try and do so today. For me Jesus has become my way, truth and life, and this leads me to the happiness, joy and peace I so much desire in my life.
I hope and pray that all of us will receive the grace and strength and courage to continue to follow the Lord Jesus who is manifested to us in so many ways in our daily lives.
Monday after Epiphany, Jan. 5
Memorial of St. John Neumann
Today the Church honors St. John Neumann, a Redemptorist priest, born in Bohemia, but an American Saint. He was looking forward to his ordination to the priesthood in 1835 when all of a sudden the Bishop there decided there would be no more ordinations for a while because there were already too many priests and they didn’t need any more! Hello!! Am I hearing correctly with my 2009 ears?
John, to get around this block to his being ordained, contacted some Bishops in America to see if they would ordain him. Finally the Bishop in New York agreed to ordain him. In New York, after his ordination, he became one of 36 priests for 200,000 people. Now, that’s more like it! John went on to labor in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and in 1852 he was made Bishop of Philadelphia. There he worked hard serving the people of the Diocese and the immigrants. He died on Jan. 5, 1860, and was canonized a saint in 1977.
St. John Neumann, pray for us.
Tuesday after Epiphany, Jan. 6
Mark 6: 34-44
Our Gospel chosen to be read today gives St. Mark’s account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We have already noted a number of times in these homilies that this is the only miracle to appear in all four of the Gospels, twice in Matthew and Mark, for a total of six times. These many and various accounts of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes indicate the wide interest of the early Church in their Eucharistic gatherings, of which this miracle is a reminder.
Personally, I find it advantageous to have this story at the beginning of this New Year to reinforce what I already know: God’s great care and compassion for his people. Jesus was unable by his very nature to let suffering people continue to suffer. Jesus will always be the Compassionate One. All of us suffer in many ways in this life, and when we undergo this it is important for us to remember the compassionate nature of Jesus. Don’t run away from him in our suffering; run toward him, seeking his help and mercy. Our suffering might not cease entirely when we do this, but things will certainly be easier to bear and more understandable.
Jesus told us: “I am with you always. Come to me all you who are burdened, and I will refresh you.” Let us remember this invitation.
Wednesday after Epiphany, Jan. 7
Mark 6: 45-52
Today’s Gospel story simply reinforces what I just finished saying in yesterday’s homily. It is one more of the countless stories in the Scriptures that show Jesus’ great care and compassion for all of us.
In this story, immediately following the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in Mark’s Gospel, the Apostles are caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus came walking toward them on the water. When they saw this, they were terrified. Jesus then proceeded to calm them and the waves of the sea. The Gospel then tells us that the Apostles were astounded. So will we be when we ask for his help and solace in our sufferings and troubles of life.
Thursday after Epiphany, Jan. 8
Luke 4: 14-22
In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth, and because it was the Sabbath, he went into the synagogue. He read the scroll and spoke to the people and the Gospel then tells us: “And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”
The word gracious in the dictionary means having or showing kindness, courtesy, charm, etc. – being merciful, compassionate, indulgent or polite to those held to be inferiors – having pleasant qualities. It comes from the Latin word gratiosus = in favor, popular, kind.
Not too long ago, we wrote a homily about the gentleness of Jesus and I said then that no one had ever accused me of being gentle. And, I noted, it is sad to say that. It was something I had to make some progress in, to get away from my harshness and sometimes hardness toward others. I believe I can say the same thing about the idea of being gracious, always responding to others with kindness and courtesy. I know that I do not always come across to others in this way. There is room for improvement here for sure. How about you?
Friday after Epiphany, Jan. 9
Luke 5: 12-16
All this week, after the initial celebration of the Memorial of St. John Neumann on Monday, the Gospels have been concerned about the care, compassion, kindness and graciousness of Jesus in one way or another. As we have noted before, sometimes the Gospels set up a theme for our consideration and reflection. And today’s Gospel is more of the same. A leper, spotting Jesus, went to him, fell prostrate at his feet, and pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the man, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left the man immediately!
Repetition, repetition, repetition. The same reminder over and over and over again to take my problems to Jesus. I wonder when I am going to learn to do this instead of first seeking the solution to the problem all by myself.
Saturday after Epiphany, Jan. 10
John 5: 14-21
Both readings for this Saturday’s Liturgy are from St. John. After what we have been talking about all this week in these homilies, I couldn’t help but notice what John says to us in the very first line of the first reading from his First Letter: “Beloved: We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” Amen!
The Gospel for today tells us of John the Baptist’s joy at the discovery that Jesus had come. John was kind of in the dark. He knew he was the forerunner of the Messiah, but he didn’t know if he had come yet, or if he had, who he was or where he was. Remember, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the One who was to come. And Jesus told them to return to John and tell him the lame walked, the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak and the poor have the Good News preached to them. Then John knew that Jesus had arrived on the scene. He discovers the same thing in today’s Gospel from John. Again he rejoices and cries out, “He must increase; I must decrease.”
Let’s try and make John’s words our own words. Let’s try and make it all about Jesus and not all about me. What a wonderful change that would be.