SUNDAY, Solemnity of the Epiphany

The word Epiphany means a proclamation, a revelation, a making known, an announcing. Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, the Anointed One of God, has come to lead humankind out of darkness into light. Humankind has been reconciled with God the Father. Now that he has come, his coming must be proclaimed, revealed, made known, announced to all the world. The fact that he has come means nothing to humankind if people do not know that he has come. Epiphany says: he is here, he has come, make straight the way of the Lord, pay attention to what he says and what he is.

We really don’t know too much about the Magi mentioned in today’s Gospel selection from Matthew. Some refer to them as wise men, others as kings, others as astrologers. Matthew’s Gospel, that I have in front of me, simply calls them magi. Matthew says, “magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem.” Again, some translations have it “from the east” while another says “from afar.” Just where in the east is not mentioned, nor is it important. I believe the word east is used here to mean far away, from all over. They came from all over the world and the whole world has to know that Jesus has come. Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to go into the whole world, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The feast of the Epiphany, then, is a feast of revelation to all and the response of people all over the world to this revelation. The magi followed the star to the stable in Bethlehem and when they saw the newborn babe they believed and offered gifts to their King.

We, and all the world, have a choice of how we will respond to this revelation of the coming of the Messiah. We have all heard of it; what is our response? I am reminded here of the parable of the Sower in the Gospel. The Sower (God, Jesus) went out into the field (the world) to sow the seed. Some fell on rocky ground, some on the pathway, some among the thorns and thistles, and some fell on fertile ground and bore good fruit: thirty, forty, a hundred fold. How do I identify with this parable? What is my response to the revelation, the epiphany, of God’s word and will for me?

The last line of the Gospel carries this same thought. We read that “they departed for their country by another way.” Jesus came to show us “another way” to return to our Father. He told us he is the way, the truth and the life. Am I trying to return to the Father my way, or by the “different way” shown to us, announced to us, by Jesus?

Fr. Howard

MONDAY after Epiphany

Isaiah’s prophecy of the light rising upon Zebulun and Nepthali (Is 8: 23-9:1) is fulfilled by Jesus making his residence in Capernaum. Matthew’s Gospel for today specifically ties Jesus to this prophecy of Isaiah to show that Jesus’ claim to being the Messiah is valid. Capernaum will be honored by the presence of the light of the world.

Christ in the Gospels calls himself the light of the world (John 8: 12). It was he who came to deliver the world from the darkness of sin. In Mt. 5: 14, Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. Light, quite obviously, is the element through which we are able to see. It is hard to imagine a world of total darkness. But, if there were such a thing, we would not be able to see at all. We would literally be wandering around in the dark. We don’t do too well with this even in the limited darkness we are subjected to during the night. We cannot see without light.

The symbol of light is a beautiful symbol for Christ. Without him, we cannot see spiritually. Without him we cannot see the way, the truth or the life. It is Jesus who lights the way. It is Jesus who is our beacon in the darkness. We have said many times before in discussing this that a symbol causes what it symbolizes. It is more than just a sign that does not cause what it signifies.

Jesus is light and through his word light comes to be. And so he has made it with us, his followers. We are light and are to be the causes of light coming to be in the world. We do this by our words and actions, by following in the footsteps of Christ. If we are not fulfilling this title given to us by Jesus, we are failing in being his disciples.

Fr. Howard

TUESDAY after Epiphany

On this Tuesday after the Epiphany, the Gospel continues the revelation of Jesus, the Messiah, to all nations. Yesterday, Jesus was revealed as the light of the world, a beacon, shining in the darkness for us to follow in order to be reunited with our Creator. Today, Mark’s Gospel reveals him as a compassionate, caring Teacher. Mark tells us, “When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

Over the years of my life, I have learned or tried to learn many things from this great Teacher, Jesus. I have learned that I don’t have to do it alone. I have learned I cannot do it alone. Without Him I can do nothing. I have learned at long last that he is the way, the truth and the life, not I. I have learned that He loves me with an unconditional love and that he forgives me my many wrongs. I have learned that I am his child, a member of his divine family. I have learned to try and imitate him, to walk in his footsteps in becoming compassionate, loving, unselfish, forgiving, in serving others. I have learned that He is God and I am creature. I have learned to let him be God. I have learned to let him do the judging. All of these things and more has he taught me. He is the Teacher. I am the disciple. And I need his continuing help to make progress and to keep and practice all I have learned from Him.

Jesus, help me to continue to walk in your ways.

Fr. Howard

WEDNESDAY after Epiphany

In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus reveals to us that he is there for us in times of crisis and trouble. Again, he is a caring and compassionate God. In today’s Gospel, his disciples were caught in a storm at sea in their fishing boat. They were “far out on the sea” and he was alone on the shore. They were frightened. They were fishermen and knew the ways of the sea, and they knew they were in trouble. Jesus approached them, walking on the water! He was going to stroll right past them, but they all saw this “ghost” walking on the water and called out to him. “They had all seen him and were terrified.” Jesus reassured them that he was there for them and not to be afraid. He got into the boat with them and the sea became calm and quiet.

What a beautiful thought is in that last sentence: “He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.” I have gotten into the habit over the years of reading the Scriptures through the eyes of a recovering alcoholic. I have to; that’s what I am. Toward the end of my drinking I was in big trouble and I knew it. The waves were beginning to swamp my boat. I was very frightened. I just knew I wasn’t going to make it. All was lost. Then I finally saw Jesus walking on the waters of my life. He was coming into my life again. He could have walked on past me, but I called out to him for help. He stopped, got into my boat, and the storm, the wind and the waves quieted down. There was peace at last.

If you have a problem today or any day, invite Jesus into your boat. Prepare a place for him to sit. The wind and the storm will quiet down. Jesus cares and will help. You will have peace.

Fr. Howard

THURSDAY after Epiphany

Again in today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals himself as caring and compassionate. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

Compassion arises from the universal desire within us all to be happy and free from suffering. Compassion is our response to this desire in others: What can I do to help you be happy and free of suffering? Compassion really is our love, our caring, for our neighbor in trouble. A good Gospel to read about compassion is Luke’s parable of the Good Samaritan found in chapter 15 of his Gospel.

Let’s all make an effort to read that parable today and ask ourselves how we are doing with being compassionate to those who need our help. Do we pass them by? Or do we stop, take the time to help, and do all we can for them like the Good Samaritan?

Fr. Howard

FRIDAY after Epiphany

The subject matter of today’s Gospel is once more about the compassionate Jesus. Today, he heals a leper. The leper saw Jesus, fell prostrate and pleaded with him, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” If you wish? Jesus could not help but to wish. He reached out his hand toward the leper, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

This Gospel reminds me of two stories in the life of St. Francis. The first story tells of Francis working in his father’s cloth shop. A beggar enters the store and asked Francis for an alms. Francis, who was really a very generous person, told the beggar to get lost. Later on, he regretted what he had done. He reminded himself that if that beggar had been one of his friends instead, asking him for some money, he would have given it to them gladly. But not to the beggar dressed in dirty clothes. Francis was ashamed of himself for what he had done and resolved then and there never again to refuse anyone who requested an alms from him.

In the second story, we see Francis remembering the first story and his promise to himself. This story has Francis meeting a leper standing in the middle of the road he was traveling on riding his horse. The leper just stood there and stared at Francis. He would not move off the road. Despite the fact that Francis despised lepers, he got off his horse, went to the leper, placed a coin in the leper’s emaciated hand and then raised that hand to his lips and kissed it. When he went again to look up into the leper’s face, the leper was gone. St. Bonaventure tells us in his biography of Francis that the leper was Christ himself.

Francis’ promise to himself was a promise to be like Christ. Christ never refused anyone who asked him for help. That wasn’t in his nature. How about us? Do our likes and dislikes, our prejudices and attitudes prevent us from helping people who ask for assistance?

Fr. Howard

SATURDAY after Epiphany

During this week following the Feast of the Epiphany, we have seen further revelations concerning the long awaited Messiah, the Anointed One of God, who has come into the world. During this time we have seen that Jesus is light, a beacon, for us to follow to happiness and peace. We have seen that he is compassionate and really cares about our needs. And we have seen that Jesus is always ready to help us in time of trouble and need. He will come to our aid.

Today’s first reading from the first Letter of St. John reinforces the readiness of Jesus to hear us and help us in our needs. “Beloved, we have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked for is ours.”

Let’s take these words of John to heart. Let’s stop trying to figure our way out of difficulties alone. Whatever we need help with today, right now, let’s give it over to Jesus for his assistance. We know he will hear us and help us.

Fr. Howard

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