SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY, Jan. 3
Mt. 2: 1-12
My Bible Commentary (The New Collegeville Bible Commentary) shares with us some details with regard to today’s Scripture story of Herod and the Magi. I would summarily like to share a few of these details with you.
Matthew does not give any of the details about the actual birth of Jesus. Matthew is interested in the place of the birth and the initial reactions of the various people to the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city where David was anointed king and this detail highlights Jesus’ royal Davidic identity. The actual king at the time of Jesus’ birth was Herod the Great who had been appointed by the Roman senate to rule over Judea in 40 b.c. Most all of us are aware of the power struggle that will follow between Jesus and the Herodian kings over who bears the title “king of the Jews.”
The first visitors to the newborn Jesus are called by the name “magi” and they came from the East. The name “magi” originally referred to a group of Persian priests. They were not kings or wise men but were good at interpreting dreams. Here in the Gospel they appear to be astrologers who can interpret the movement of the stars. Magi were not always held in high regard as they were associated with sorcery and magic. However, Matthew in his Gospel portrays them very favorably. They were Gentiles who respond positively to Jesus and stand in contrast to Herod and the others who reject Jesus. With regard to the star the magi followed, some believe it be have been Halley’s Comet which appeared in 12-11 b.c.
The response of these magi in Matthew’s Gospel matches that of the disciples. They were overjoyed at Jesus’ birth and bowed down in homage to Jesus and gave him the most precious gifts they had, just as the disciples offer him their very selves. And finally they are obedient to the divine commands given to them in dreams and return home by a different route, by-passing Herod. The actual text in Matthew doesn’t tell us how many magi there were nor exactly where they came from. And as far as their gifts to Jesus are concerned, Matthew may have been alluding to Isaiah 60: 6 where we read: “All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.” What precious gifts am I offering Jesus on this Feast of Epiphany?
The word Epiphany comes from the Greek and means “appearance” or “manifestation.” Jesus was initially made known to the magi by the appearance of the star they followed. For me, personally, there has always been the element of light (given by the star) associated with the Epiphany or appearance of Christ. Christ later on in the Scriptures tells us that he is the Light of the World. Light, as we all know, takes away the darkness. It was Jesus’ mission to take away, remove, the darkness of the shadow of death and the darkness that came from the natural actions of humankind such as hatred, selfishness, violence, war, and all the rest. Jesus came to give us light and thus enable us to see his way, truth and life and thus to insure the happiness, joy and peace we all desire deep in our hearts.
Come, Lord Jesus, and bring us your light that we may see and follow your way.
THE EPIPHANY PROCLAMATION 2010
While a day like Christmas is fixed in our minds and on the calendars on December 25, many of the important feasts of the Church year move, based upon the date that Easter is set. Easter changes each year moving to the Sunday after the “Paschal Full Moon,” and can fall between March 22 and April 25.
In ancient times before calendars were common, most people did not know the dates for the upcoming Liturgical year. On Epiphany Sunday, the upcoming dates were “proclaimed” after the Gospel in this way:
Dear brothers and sisters,
The glory of the Lord has shone upon us,
And shall ever be manifest among us,
Until the day of his return.
Through the rhythms of times and seasons,
Let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.
Let us recall the year’s culmination,
The Easter Triduum of the Lord:
His last supper, his crucifixion, his burial,
And his rising celebrated
Between the evening of the first day of April
And the evening of the third day of April,
Easter Sunday being on the fourth day of April.
Each Easter – as on each Sunday –
The Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed
By which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death.
From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent,
Will occur on the seventeenth day of February.
The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the
Twenty-first day of May.
Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter,
Will be celebrated on the twenty-third of May.
And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be
On the twenty-eighth of November.
Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ
In the feasts of the holy Mother of God,
In the feasts of the Apostles and Saints,
And in the commemoration of the faithful departed.
To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come,
Lord of time and history,
Be endless praise, for ever and ever.
Monday after Epiphany, Jan. 4
Mt. 4: 12-17, 23-25
“Jesus went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. And great crowds came from Galilee, the Decopolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.”
After Jesus learned of John’s arrest and imprisonment, he went to Capernaum, a fishing village at the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee. It was on a trade route called the “Via Maris,” “the Way of the Sea.” This site insured Jesus a large audience for his preaching ministry. Mention is made of “Galilee of the Gentiles,” that shows Jesus’ mission expanding also the Gentiles, indeed to all people. Decopolis was also on the east side of the Jordan River and there the Greek culture flourished. These regions were also Gentile regions. All of which adds up to the fact that there was a mixture of people following Jesus and they became the audience for Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which now begins in Matthew’s Gospel.
All of this should cause us to reflect on our own following of Jesus. Hopefully, we all have chosen to be his disciples, we have repented and expressed sorrow for our sins. Jesus has forgiven our sins; he lets them go and they cease to have any further existence. Jesus has come to us, he has cleansed us from the darkness of our sins, and we follow him. I might ask myself today where I need further cleansing and forgiving so I can follow him even more closely.
Tuesday after Epiphany, Jan. 5
Mark 6: 34-44
“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.”
Let’s each in his or her own way today reflect on the words of today’s Gospel that we are all like sheep without a shepherd. I have read many descriptions of sheep over the years and they all seem to point to the fact that sheep are rather helpless if they are left to themselves. They need tending, they need a shepherd to lead them, to keep them going in the right direction, to keep them from blundering into harm’s way.
All of us think we are pretty smart. We get to the point where we know all the answers or at least we think we do. From time to time it is good for us to pause and think for a moment of all the crazy things we have done during our lifetime that could have ended our lives or put us into a whole lot of trouble. I myself certainly don’t have to think too long to come up with some such instances and when I do I discover that I am not nearly as smart as I thought I was.
I have commented many times before in these homilies how I thought at one time that I was the way, the truth and the life. It wasn’t untill I discovered how far off base this was that I began to realize the potential God has placed within me. Alone I was going nowhere. With God in my life, I could make a difference to myself and others. A sheep is a pretty good description of myself. Jesus is right on target. How do you feel about being referred to as a sheep without a shepherd?
Wednesday after Epiphany, Jan. 6
Mark 6: 45-52
After the people had eaten and were satisfied, Jesus went off to the mountain to pray. The disciples had returned to their boat and were far off shore while Jesus was alone on the beach. Then Jesus noticed that the disciples were in trouble. The waves were high, the wind was against them, and then were being tossed around until it was becoming a dangerous situation. Jesus began to walk on the waters and came toward the ship. He was going to pass them by but the disciples saw him and cried out in fear. Jesus got into the boat with them and the winds subsided. All of this happened right after Jesus miraculously fed the huge crowd with a few loaves of bread and some fish.
The disciples didn’t understand all the things that were coming at them so fast. All they could do was trust Jesus. Easier said than done. How trusting am I in Jesus when things are happening in my life that I do not understand?
Thursday after Epiphany, Jan. 7
Luke 4: 14-22 – I John 4: 19 – 5: 4
The two readings for today’s Liturgy tell us why the wonderful and miraculous things we have been reading about happened to the disciples (and to us yet today). They happen simply because God has first loved us. No problem, no disaster, no crisis, no illness, can defeat the love of God. That’s why there are miracles all around us all the time if only we would look! This is why Jesus came as we read in today’s Gospel segment from St. Luke:
“The Spirit of the Lord us 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.”
There is an old children’s song that puts all this in one simple sentence: “Jesus loves me, this I know, ‘cause the Bible tells me so.”
Friday after Epiphany, Jan. 8
Luke 5: 12-16
The miraculous ways of Jesus continue in the Gospel read for today’s Liturgy. There was a man full of leprosy who, when he saw Jesus, fell prostrate and said to Jesus, “Lord, if you wish, you could make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the man’s leprosy was gone! Remember, the Gospel tells us that this man was “full of leprosy.” This wasn’t merely a slight case of the disease, it was horrendous!
Nothing is too big for God to handle. His love for us knows no bounds. Will someone please tell me why we don’t pay more attention to this? How can we time after time go wondering off on our own when we have a God who is only too willing to help us if we but ask him. “Lord, if you wish, you can make me whole.”
Saturday after Epiphany, Jan. 9
John 3: 22-30
“He must increase; I must decrease.”
Having seen what we have seen for the past few days in the various Gospels, we would do well to make the words of John the Baptist just given above our words too. John testifies to his subservience to Jesus in our Gospel for today. His way is greater than mine. I am here to make him known, to be his disciple, to be his forerunner. He is the way, the truth and the life, not I. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. Surely, we can identify with John the Baptist. None of us think we are greater that Jesus! And if this is so, why do our actions many times suggest that we think we are greater than he?
Lord, help me to know my proper place and to stay there. I am a beautiful and wonderful part of God’s creation but I am and always will be subservient to you. How could I possibly think otherwise?