Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Epiphany of the Lord

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Epiphany of the Lord
January 8, 2017
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

            With the feast of Epiphany, the mystery of Christmas comes into its fullness. In our understanding of God’s involvement in our lives, God was at first revealed to a particular people, the Jewish people, but we also believe that it was God’s intent all along to include all people into this mystery. Epiphany is the realization of this mystery, even though the plan is still unfolding over sustained periods of time. For centuries, God told the Jews that the plan would be secret until it came about obscurely, but after the birth of Jesus, God’s word was spoken directly. Two points are important there: (1.) salvation is for everyone, and (2.) all good things take time.

            The wise men represent the Gentile world for whom salvation is available. They see and believe that something much greater is happening than the miracle of the birth of a child. They linger in Bethlehem to get to know the young family well and they give him due honor and glory befitting a real king. The world of the Jews has broken open into the world of the Gentiles and both peoples are forever changed. The boundaries between a select group and maligned, mistrusted foreigners, the insiders and those who have been placed outside, have come together as one. The fusion does not happen overnight, and centuries later we are still working towards our unification.

            In our world today, we identify with particular camps and categories of people, like Catholics and Protestants, pro-lifers and pro-choice, gay or straight, tall or short, brown or yellow, Jews and Muslims, Republicans and Democrats, among some. We need grouping in order to have an identity, but the problem is, whenever we do it, we put groups of people of the outside. We form boundaries and walls and we disassociate from them. We take steps to fortify our positions and we read information that only supports our positions. We tend to hold negative opinions of people who do not agree with us. This goes against the principles of Epiphany, which is a coming together of disparate peoples.

            Epiphany is a coming together in reconciliation and enrichment. We cannot be wall-builders because it is wrong and is against what Jesus did and taught. We cannot marginalize other people when we have not even tried to get to know them. We cannot demonize another person because they have a behavior or a condition we dislike. For instance, we cannot vote against our best overall interests just because of a single issue. Pope Francis says we are more than that. There are better, more effective ways of dealing with serious issues. It makes us into hard-hearted, stubborn people who fail to hear the word of God. We are far too stubborn with not-seriously-informed principles, and it makes us unlikable and unmerciful. We have to become thinking, educated, compassionate people who truly seek to understand the position of others. We have to let Epiphany take root in the frontiers of our hearts.

            We also have to understand that God’s salvific work takes time. You have changed within the last five years. What makes you think your neighbor has not likewise changed as well? You have probably evolved on your issues within the last five years. Give you neighbor the benefit of the doubt that her position has evolved as well. Maybe you are closer together than you recognize. You want to be understood by others. You want others to listen to you so they can understand your thoughts and feelings. The secret to getting what you want and need is by trying to understand others. God is at work in you in slow, deliberate ways. See that God is also at work in others.

            Reconciliation and unification happens slowly over time. The arc of justice is long and its bends towards mercy. Be on the side of striving for justice. Be on the side of enlightenment and enrichment. Allow the Lord to permit you to have an Epiphany. Advance the work of the magi who beheld a foreigner and found hope and promise. Take the hand of your neighbor, the one you will not even acknowledge, and say ‘Hello, I hope you are well. Tell me your story.” Let’s choose to end our tolerated divisions that arise from fears and prejudice, and let’s learn how to care for one another that is befitting a young hope, a young child born to us, full of promise and joy, a hope that one day will rule the world.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Isaiah 42) Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am please, upon whom I have put my spirit.
Tuesday: (Hebrews 2) It was fitting that Jesus, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make their leader to salvation perfect through suffering.
Wednesday: (Hebrews 2) Since the children share in blood and Flesh, Jesus shared in them likewise, that through death he might destroy the one who has power of death.  
Thursday: (Hebrews 3) Take care that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart so as to forsake the living God.      
Friday (Hebrews 4) Let us be on guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed.   
Saturday (Hebrews 4) The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Monday: (Matthew 3) Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. A voice came from heaven saying: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.    
Tuesday: (Mark 1) Jesus came to Capernaum’s synagogue when an unclean spirit approached him. He rebuked the Spirit and demonstrated power over him.
Wednesday (Mark 1) Jesus entered the home of Simon and Andrew and cured Simon’s mother-in-law. The townspeople brought many people to him for healing.
Thursday (Mark 1) A leper begged Jesus to heal him. The leprosy left him and he was warned sternly not to make known the source of his healing.
Friday (Mark 2) Jesus returned home and his friends brought a paralytic for healing. He forgave his sins, but the authorities became angry so he also healed his paralysis.
Saturday (Mark 2) Jesus called Levi as a disciple. He was with other tax collectors and sinners, eating and drinking with them. I have come to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance.  

Saints of the Week

January 13: The Baptism of the Lord is recounted in Mark’s Gospel where the baptism of water is to be replaced by a baptism of fire. God confirms the person of Jesus when he rises from the water and a dove alights on his head. God is well pleased.

January 14: Hilary, bishop and doctor (315-367), was born in Gaul and received the faith as an adult. He was made bishop of Poitiers and defended the church against the Arian heresy. He was exiled to the Eastern Church where his orthodox rigidity made him too much to handle so the emperor accepted him back.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.
·      Jan 11, 1573. At Milan, St Charles Borromeo founded a college (the Brera) and placed it under the care of the Society.
·      Jan 12, 1544. Xavier wrote a long letter on his apostolic labors, saying he wished to visit all the universities of Europe in search of laborers for our Lord's vineyard. The letter was widely circulated and very influential.
·      Jan 13, 1547. At the Council of Trent, Fr. James Laynez, as a papal theologian, defended the Catholic doctrine on the sacraments in a learned three-hour discourse.

·      Jan 14, 1989. The death of John Ford SJ, moral theologian and teacher at Weston College and Boston College. He served on the papal commission on birth control.

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