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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Epiphany of the Lord

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Epiphany of the Lord
January 4, 2015
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

This feast of Epiphany is first and foremost God’s manifestation to the entire world that extends salvation beyond the Jews to the Gentiles. Contained within the broader message is the drama between King Herod and the wise men from the east. It is a story that encourages us to persevere in doing what is right because it assures us of God’s victory of light over darkness, of good over evil. Trusting the honor of the innocent may be more advantageous than trusting the honor of a person of influence, resources, and might.

The drama between Herod and the wise men is not too far removed from our life’s situations. Their context is larger and weightier, but we encounter Herods in our time that wants to bring us into their deceptive plans. In the Gospels, Herod is vilified and we rightly see him as a man who does great evil, but in his own mind, he is acting out of a positive value system that secures his status as king. Most of the people we know in life are good people who sometimes make some hurtful decisions. Sometimes their value systems oppose our own and the good that they pursue may seem to us as an evil. We have to figure out how to delicately pursue the good that God intends for us.

The wise men gave their word to King Herod and their system of honor impels them to keep the integrity of their word. However, they recognized something in their conscience that informed them they were heading down the wrong path if they kept their word. It was foolish to deceive a person of influence like Herod, because his word often meant life or death for those who crossed him, but these three men could not betray what they experienced at the end of the star – a young mother with a child that seemed favored by God. These men chose the rightful action, though in worldly terms it was imprudent, and they cleverly returned home by a more challenging journey – for the sake of the good.
The evil spirit often acts through a good person. When we detect the presence of the evil one, we have to quickly figure out (1.) how to protect the right actions we are pursuing, while (2.) finding out what that good person needs so they can return to pursuing what the Holy Spirit wants for them. Imagine if a close advisor took some time to have a lengthy conversation with Herod so he could express his fears and concerns. Allowing a person to say what they need often satisfies them enough so their fears are lessened and they can see their actions in a more balanced, life-giving way. If Herod only had someone to hear him out, he might have spared the lives of countless boy martyrs and promoted a more just society for his citizens.

We have to make sure our consciences continued to be formed. Our conscience is that still silent part of us that does not get ruffled by drama, but speaks to the new insights we receive with clarity. We form our conscience by educating ourselves and striving to negotiate the art of conversation that leads to more comprehensive understandings. As we learn to communicate, we find ourselves speaking less and less while increasing our capacity to listen and understand. We integrate what we learn with our value systems and we come to a point where we cherish our conscience to the extent that we could never betray it. The wise men could not betray their own and they masterfully found a positive way out of their dilemma. They preserved what was good and right and they left the world in a better place. We must always be masterful in the face of the evil spirit so we can calmly find a refuge of safety while in a sea of harm.

Lessen the drama in your life. Realize most of your drama is temporary and is out of your control. Raise your eyes to look for the star that shines brightly. Raise your eyes in splendor and look towards the proverbial holy mountain so you may see the Lord’s glory with great clarity and then you can walk in God’s light. The glory of the Lord will be known by your shining radiance and you will find a skillful way of opening the path of glory to others, especially to those who are caught up in the trappings of the evil spirit. Keep your eyes raised and move to a place of calm assurance and you will be fine.

After all, this is the feast of God’s manifestation to the entire world and you have work to do. There are many proverbial gentiles who society shuns from the promises of salvation. This is not right. Epiphany is about extending a hospitable welcome to those we otherwise do not want near us, but we will be surprised at the miraculous events the Lord has in store for us. Open wide the gates in splendor to those who seek God. Let us bring as many people as we can to the door of salvation. Look to God’s star and follow in great dignity and peace. The tiny child’s heart will change the world.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (1 John 3) We receive from Christ what we ask and he will give it to us because we follow his commandments and love one another. However, trust every spirit as we discern.
Tuesday: (I John 4) Let us love one another because love is of God, who gave us his only Son so that we might have life through him.
Wednesday: (1 John 4) No one has ever seen God, but we believe in him as the source of love. When we act lovingly, we act in accord with our invisible God and make God visible.
Thursday: (1 John 4) You cannot say you love God and then hate your neighbor. God is love and love marks us as heirs of God.
Friday: (1 John 5) Who is the victor of the world? The one who believes in Jesus as the Son of God. The Spirit testifies to him and the Spirit is Truth.
Saturday: (1 John 5) If we ask for anything in his name, God will hear us. We belong to God and anyone begotten by God does not sin.

Monday: (Matthew 4) When Jesus heard that John was arrested, he retreated to Galilee. He cured many and his fame spread throughout Syria. A people who lived in darkness have seen a great light.
Tuesday: (Mark 6) When Jesus saw the vast crowds, his heart was filled with pity. He made his disciples give the crowds something to eat though their food resources were scarce.
Wednesday: (Mark 6) After feeding the crowds, he sent his disciples in a boat to the other side of the sea. During the fourth watch of night, Jesus walked on the water in the middle of a storm.
Thursday: (Mark 3) The fame of Jesus spread as he healed many and cured their illnesses. People came from all over the region to see him and they said, “You are the Son of God.”
Friday: (Luke 5) Jesus encountered a leper who begged him to heal him. Afterwards, the man had to show himself to the priest, but Jesus had to stay outside of towns to do his work and to proclaim the gospel.
Saturday: (John 3) A dispute arose about the disciples of John the Baptist and Jesus, who was seen baptizing. John declared that he was not the One they sought,  but that he is the friend of the bridegroom.

Saints of the Week

January 4: Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious (1774-1821), was born into an Episcopalian household where she married and had five children. When her husband died, she became a Catholic and founded a girls’ school in Baltimore. She then founded the Sisters of Charity and began the foundation for the parochial school system in the U.S. She is the first native-born American to be canonized.

January 5: John Neumann, bishop (1811-1860), emigrated from Bohemia to New York and joined the Redemptorists in Pittsburgh before being named bishop of Philadelphia. He built many churches in the diocese and placed great emphasis on education as the foundation of faith.

January 6: Andre Bessette, religious (1845-1937), was born in Quebec, Canada. He joined the Congregation of the Holy Cross and taught for 40 years at the College of Notre Dame. He cared for the sick and was known as a intercessor for miracles. He built St. Joseph’s Oratory, a popular pilgrimage site in Canada.

January 7: Raymond of Penyafort, priest (1175-1275), was trained in philosophy and law and was ordained in 1222 to preach to the Moors and Christians. Though he was appointed bishop of Tarragon, he declined the position. Instead he organized papal decrees into the first form of canon law. He was later elected Master of the Dominican Order.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jan. 4, 1619: The English mission is raised to the status of a province.
·      Jan. 5, 1548: Francis Suarez, one of the greatest theologians of the church, was born at Granada.
·      Jan. 6, 1829: Publication of Pope Leo XII's rescript, declaring the Society to be canonically restored in England.
·      Jan. 7, 1566: Cardinal Ghislieri was elected pope as Pius V. He was a great friend of the Francis Borgia and appointed Salmeron and Toletus as apostolic preachers at the Vatican. He desired to impose the office of choir on the Society and even ordered it. He was canonized as St. Pius V.
·      Jan. 8, 1601: Balthasar Gracian was born. A Spanish Jesuit, he wrote on courtly matters. He is the author of "The Compleat Gentleman" and "The Art of Worldly Wisdom."
·      Jan. 9, 1574: Fr. Jasper Haywood died at Naples. He was superior of the English mission. As a boy he was one of the pages of honor to the Princess Elizabeth. After a brilliant career at Oxford, he renounced his fellowship and entered the Society in Rome in 1570. An able Hebrew scholar and theologians, he was for two years professor in the Roman College.
·      Jan. 10, 1581: Queen Elizabeth signed the fifth Penal Statute in England inflicting heavy fines and imprisonment on all who harbored Jesuits and Seminary priests.

·      Jan 10, 1567. Two Jesuits arrived in Havana, Cuba, as a base for evangelization.

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