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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Epiphany of the Lord

The Epiphany of the Lord
January 6, 2019
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-6; Matthew 2:1-12

The wise men following the star and finding the boy Jesus completes the Christmas story, and yet it remains a turning point in our faith because Gentiles come to know that the God born for us has come for them as well. The birth of Jesus is the sign that God includes all people of goodwill in the plan of salvation. This major moment began with a simple quest, a desire to see the newborn King of the Jews, to seek the God who is to live among us.

It all begins with seeking, doesn’t it? The wise men were people of good will, who heard the news that a future king was born to the Jews and they set out to meet him. When they saw the baby with his mother, they solemnly honored him and offered gifts. This moment of encounter was enough to set them right because they did not return to Herod to tell him the location of the boy. Goodness will always prevail, and the increase of goodness will stop the progress of evil.

Imagine if someone had spent time with Herod to learn about his fears. If someone mindfully listened to his concerns and insecurities, he might have been persuaded to cancel his plans to kill the innocent boys of Bethlehem. Listening to a person’s personal suffering can increase understanding and turn a person away from doing what is harmful to others, sparing a lot of pain, and setting a person on the path of goodness.

The Wise Men received the truth they sought, and the Holy Family received hospitality from the Magi. It seems that today we have to give an account of our faith experience to others who are seeking God. Do people who come to us find welcome? Do they find our answers and reasons compelling? Last week, I had lunch with a man who received instruction in the Catholic faith and enjoyed the richness of our tradition a great deal but returned to the faith of his upbringing for one simple reason: The church never made him feel welcome. His instruction in the faith was learning about a set of rules when he simply wanted to learn more about Jesus. He met a church full of rules, processes, formalities, and structures. As willing as he was to try out the church, it always made him feel like an outsider. We can do better than that. Fortunately, this man articulated the reasons for not staying with the church; unfortunately, many others walk away without giving a reason. We fail when we do not give hospitality that was a mark of the early Christians. We fail when we do not show a seeker the Christ for whom they long.

Today’s magi are mostly the “nones” of our world, not ‘nuns’ as in religious sisters, but “nones,” who have no faith tradition or experience, but are still seeking something more in life. We are not meeting them well. We are not receiving them. We give them rules and processes when they only want to know about Christ’s life within us. We are not saying, “Welcome, friend. Tell me something about yourself. What is it that you seek?” We need to say, “Come. Let’s have coffee together. I want to learn something about you.” We talk too much. We have to listen more than we speak.

 As with the Magi, the first encounter is a make or break moment. We must make sure that those who seek Christ find him in our speech and our actions. Our personal responses have to provide a welcome. That is it! Nothing more. We simply say, “I’m glad you are here. I’m glad you came.” Look at them in the eyes and smile because the smile is the sign of a Christian because Christ lives within and among us. A smile is the sign that we believe in the resurrection. It is a simple and far-reaching gesture.

Each person is seeking God in his or her own particular ways. Sometimes we don’t understand the path a person takes, but each of us need to encounter the newborn child who will be someone special to us. Each of us wants to belong and to find greater meaning in our lives. We have to be like the Magi who give the riches of the faith to those who seek them. We have to be the people of goodwill who make the right decisions to sustain life and to steer people away from harm. We have to give them our most prized possessions – the God whom they seek, the God who wants to be with them, the God who wants to include them into the family, the God who wants to grow in their hearts because they are a gift in and of themselves, a gift that will be unwrapped joyfully over time. This is the time to give of ourselves to a world starving for welcome and acceptance. The season of gift-giving never ends.

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 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. 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.
·      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.

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