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Contents: Volume 2 - Epiphany of the Lord
January 6 2019


 

The

Epiphany

of

the Lord

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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1.

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Epiphany of the Lord 2019

In our first reading today from the book of Isaiah, we hear/read: "See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples" then "but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory." The beginning of this new year seems to be right in line with the first part of this message. it is difficult for me somehow to push through it immediately to the hope of the second part!

New year's resolutions are notoriously easy to make but hard to maintain. This year I am trying to look at the darkness and clouds that inevitably come into life with a solution-based perspective. " What is wrong with this picture?" comes first, then, "what 'next right thing' can I do to make the situation better?"

In our Gospel reading, the magi followed Jesus' star and were "overjoyed" when they found the Lord. They heeded a warning in a dream and continued their lives afterwards "by another way". To me, there is wisdom in what the magi did before they found Jesus and afterwards as well.

The wisdom of the magi is applicable to our day and times and our situations. We, too, must seek out the light. It only takes a glimmer of light to overcome any darkness, but we MUST actively look for it. "What is wrong with the picture" in so many cases is that the characters involved focus on the darkness, not on the possibility of light. That "wallowing in the mud" mentality seems to ignore that we, too, can be, and really are called to be, that glimmer of light.

Ignoring the darkness is not the answer and neither is becoming part of it. What is the next right thing we can do to shed light and be light in such situations? I think how each of us answers that question can be the beginning of not just new year's resolutions we can fulfill but a life changing direction for people personally, in the communities in which we find ourselves, and also as a sold step toward worldwide peace as well.

What is the "next right hing" you can do to follow the light of Christ and be light in this world? It can be an epiphany. It can be life-changing.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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The Epiphany of the Lord January 6 2019

Isaiah 60:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3 & 5-6; Gospel Acclamation 2:2; Matthew 2:1-12

The celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord brings us a two edged sword bearing a cutting edge of unexpected hope while the other edge carries the cutting edge of the challenge of discerning truth from duplicity. The first reading from the third part of the book of Isaiah is filled with hope. This Isaiah is full of hope for his people, proclaiming a reversal of seven decades of terrible slavery in Babylon. Released from oppression by the mighty army of Cyrus the Great of Persia, Isaiah’s prophecy speaks of the chosen people as becoming a light to all nations. This work of Cyrus was not merely the overthrow of the corrupt Babylonian empire. It signaled an awakening of the Chosen People. The darkness of slavery that plunged the nation in despair and gloom is shattered with a force that explodes and scatters hope to all nations. That captivity was a time of spiritual renewal of the Chosen People. It was during this time that the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures were written down. For several centuries after the establishment of the Kingdom of David, the Chosen People were scattered over the whole earth by choice, by war, and by the creation of a network of international commerce. This prophecy of Isaiah signaled a return of the entire family of twelve tribes in a grand festival of reunion. All would be called home, even infants, the sons and daughters still in the arms of their nurses. The brightness of this reunion of the tribes with God would bring caravans with gold and frankincense to Jerusalem. Gold is the symbol of royalty: this gift meant that all nations would recognize the Kingdom of faith witnessed by the Chosen People. Frankincense is a symbol of divinity; this gift meant that all nations would recognize that God dwells with these Chosen People.

Most of us recall that gold and frankincense were gifts the Magi brought to the now nearly two year old Jesus in Bethlehem. But we might note the absence of the Magi’s third gift of myrrh. Myrrh is symbolic of death as that was the spice used to prepare bodies for burial. This prophecy of Isaiah is filled with hope. There is no prophecy in this passage of Isaiah that foretells the death of Jesus. This message of hope comes to us as a light to the world. Light allows us to see the truth of ourselves, of our fellow humans, and the world around us. We discern truth of what happens around and to us. We see clearly what is a lie. We can see and understand what is good and experience what is evil. With this knowledge we are able to exercise our freedom to decide for truth or lie and in so doing walk a path of good or evil. The light illumines the way so can choose to stay on the path of what is right and avoid holes and cliffs and slippery slopes of what is wrong and a lie of what God created.

The birth of Jesus is a supernova of brightness with which we can see God’s continuing intervention in human history. It is not as though what has gone on before lacks anything as thought the Hebrew experience of God’s presence was meaningless. This coming of the Son of God is a confirmation of what has gone on before. But it also leads to a new hope, a new appreciation of the presence of God among us. As our human history ebbs and flows from periods of peace and kindness into the violence of war, interpersonal violence, and denial of dignity and worthy to any other part of creation, we find ourselves in need of God’s presence. That presence, that Emmanuel is the brightness overcoming the gloom and doom of disasters in human history. Our Christmas hope lasts only a short time. Then reality comes rushing back in and hope is robbed of its energy by a current of evil. We easily forget that evil continues even when hope itself illumines our path. It is as though the undeclared gift of myrrh in the message of Isaiah is pushed aside in the delirium that accompanies our release from slavery, oppression, and poverty. We forget to remain clear-eyed to the reality of the world.

In this celebration of the Epiphany we should recognize the always present dangers of complacency and of the evil brought on by those who seek power or work to hold on to the illusion of power. We might achieve more clarity about our current circumstances if we consider this story of the Magi from the facts of history. "Magi" was an ancient Middle Eastern term used to identify those who studied current events, astrology, and history. In the Parthian Empire this term Magi was used more specifically to name what we would today call a "think tank" for the ruler. They studied astrology, political movements of their empire and political movements of surrounding nations, the strategies and tactics of successful armies, and the attitudes of citizens. They understood and studied the energy of commerce that led to wealth and standards of living. In this way they were able to predict and assist in the development of strategies and policies for governing. The Parthians were enemies of the Jews. In 40 B.C.E they attacked Judaea in an effort to overthrow the occupation of the Romans and claim that territory as their own. They failed in their attempt. It was during the confusion of that war that Herod was able to finagle his way into power over Judaea. So when these Magi appeared in Jerusalem it appeared to Herod that these ambassadors from Parthia were there looking for a person who would usurp his kingship.

What is amazing about this story is that the chief priests and scribes who understood God’s promise of a Messiah for the people apparently did nothing to find the child foretold in the prophecy of Micah, the last of the prophets of Israel. They interpreted the prophecy for Herod and then returned to their usual and customary practices of ritual and moral admonitions to the people. Surely there would have been one or perhaps two among the chief priests and scribes – the wise keepers and interpreters of the Hebrew Scriptures – who would have pursued this visitation of the Magi? But there is no evidence they did so. What dulled their perceptions: what blockage was there in their hearts that prevented them from rejoicing at the prospect of the promised Messiah? Perhaps this is a question we should ask ourselves as we celebrate this Christmas season?

But it was Herod, in the duplicity of his heart, who lied to the Magi. He insisted he too was looking for this promised king. All the while he feared this promised king was a challenge for his throne. This child born in Bethlehem would threaten his kingship if not in his infancy then at least in the future. He must be eliminated.

It strikes me as I think on the Scriptures that we make a mistake when we think of the Scriptures as something in the past. As we look at our world now, we see repeated genocides of peoples, of tribes, of whole nations. What is the source of this disaster? Why did the World Wars of our parents expose the evil in human hearts that allowed for the extermination of six million persons men, women, and children? To what can we attribute the horror of the genocide in the Balkans? Where can we lay blame for the "troubles" in Ireland resulting in the loss of moms and dads, sons and daughters? What about the troubles in our own country resulting in the lynching of hundreds of African American citizens? What about the native people in our own country even now forgotten and oppressed in "reservations?" What about the troubles in Central and South America that even now are the sources of scores of deaths and overwhelming poverty? Why do we as Christians ignore the destruction of the land that was the birthplace of Christianity – that land of Syria evangelized by Paul? If we isolate ourselves, thinking our nation is above such terror, we only fool ourselves into thinking that evil can be allowed to flourish elsewhere and not affect us. We should sharpen the Hope side of the two-edged sword.

Does not Herod still live and thrive today in the persons of our government who are unaffected by the deaths of children and their imprisonment in unsafe and violent retention centers? In a land that claims seven million jobs lacking applicants are we economically not cutting off our noses to spite our faces by refusing to legalize a flow of applicants for work and for contributing citizenship?

We rejoiced at the angels’ song "Peace on earth to men of good-will." Maybe on this epiphany, this coming out of Jesus as the longed-for Messiah we can overcome the lack of vison of the chief priests and scribes and ask the Magi if we can tag along to see for ourselves this heaven-born Son of God/Son of Man. This two edged sword is in our hands so we can cut through that which dulls our senses to the evil around us and thus on the back-swing cut through the darkness of sin and despair. For this child is the hope of nations, all nations.

May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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PRESENTS AND PRESENCE: FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY C

At Christmas time we give presents to different people. Different people give presents to us. What's it all about? It all goes back to the story of the wise men going to Bethlehem, falling down on their knees, and offering the best gifts they could afford to the Baby King.

But Christmas is not just about giving presents. It’s more about being present, i.e. sharing ourselves with warmth, affection and sincerity. The quality of our personal presence is everything. In practice, gift-giving may sometimes be aimed more at keeping on side and keeping the peace than being really present. In fact, gift-giving may at times be part of the commercialisation of Christmas instead of an expression of unconditional love.

In contrast, the wise men are completely single-minded and sincere in their gift-giving. Their gifts are expressions of their respect, reverence, gratitude and love for the child. Their gifts are given with no strings attached, no conditions, and no mixed motives.

The flaws in our gift-giving may make us feel that the whole business of exchanging Christmas presents should be abolished, and that the commercialization of Christmas should be restrained and restricted, if not eliminated altogether.

If and when we think such thoughts, it may help to remember that the commercialization and consumerism of Christmas is somewhat necessary. Were it a completely spiritual celebration, hundreds of small businesses would go to the wall. Thousands of factory workers making bon-bons, trees, chocolates, decorations, cards and toys, would find themselves unemployed.

It may also be helpful to remember that if people did not spend money on gifts to family and friends at Christmas, their consciences would not be roused to make donations to the poor and needy at this special time of giving and sharing. (Many charities, in fact, experience a big boost at Christmas time).

Despite the limits and flaws in our gift-giving, it’s important to both keep the practice alive and to purify it of its worst excesses. It's particularly important to the lives of children. The good news is that while they are attracted to receiving e.g., a gift of an I-Pad or shiny new roller-blades, they are also attracted to the Crib and to the story of the baby lying there clothed in rags. Their hearts are touched by the plight of his parents who are so poor that they can offer him nothing but their protection and affection.

In fact, children very easily get the message that this is a story of love. They appreciate the humanity of the Holy Family, their struggles and their sacrifices, to bring to the human race the Light of the Nations.

The story of the visit to the Crib by the Wise Men is a story of giving and receiving. It speaks of how gifts express love between persons, and of how gifts given with love bind people together. But it is not simply about the giving of things - in this case gold, frankincense, and myrrh - but the giving of persons, the sharing of selves.

In celebrating Epiphany we are celebrating the greatest manifestation of goodness there has ever been, that of God's love for us. For it was out of love, that God the Father gave us the Son, and gave him to be our Light, our Savior, our King and our Joy. The poet John Betjeman has written of this precious gift from God:

A present that cannot be priced

Given two thousand years ago.

Yet if God had not given so

He still would be a distant stranger

And not the Baby in the manger.

Jesus, then, is the celebrity we are celebrating. He’s the reason for the season, the Twelve Days of Christmas. So, as a beautiful carol puts it: ‘JOY, JOY, FOR CHRIST IS BORN, THE BABE, THE SON OF MARY!’

As our Eucharist continues then, I suggest that we make a special point of giving thanks for the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives. May we acknowledge with sincerity that he is the most valuable present we have ever received! May we also in return renew the gift of our whole selves, our whole lives, to both God himself and to the people who need us most!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


 

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Volume II Archive

We keep up to six articles in this archive.  The latest is always listed first.

2nd SUNDAY Baptism of the Lord EPIPHANY HOLY FAMILY ADVENT 4 ADVENT 3


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