Sunday, January 8, 2017

Epiphany: Follow the Light!

It is the Epiphany. It comes from the Greek word "epiphainen" which means to reveal or shine upon.  This day celebrates the main revelations of the person of Christ as God and man. The main times we see this are when the Magi visit Christ (Matthew 2:1-12) which we celebrate today, at the Baptism of Christ (Mark 1:9-11) when the Holy Spirit descends on Christ and God the Father reveals Christ as His only begotten Son; the next moment is at the Wedding of Cana (John 2:1-11) where Jesus performs His first miracle due to the intercession of His Mother Mary.  In this, her last recorded words are shown, "Do whatever He tells you."  Great advice from mom right?  

In the first reading, we read of Jerusalem being told to rise up in splendor, her light has come.  The glory of the Lord shines on her. Darkness covers the earth and thick clouds the people, but God shines through. This light is of course Jesus Christ the Lord (John 8:12)!  Our world is in so much darkness. Just recently, a horrific attack took place in Florida where a mentally ill young Latino shot and killed 5 and wounded others. This perpetrator is said to have been affected by the war in Iraq. Evil is never good. Violence is never good. These affect our psychology. Human beings were not made for violence. We are the only creatures on earth without physical defenses.  Other animals have claws, venom, quills, etc to defend themselves. We do not.

This is why we need Christ the light who illumines minds and hearts keeping us away from evil and violence. The light of the world is Christ and we need to seek Him.  We need to seek Him just like the Three Kings or Magi who came from Midian, Ephah and Sheba with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh did.  These gifts represent Christ's Royalty, Divinity and death as well as the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.  The Magi represent the "outsiders" or the Gentiles, Pagans and others who are outside of God's "Chosen People," Israel. They represent all the different races coming to meet the Christ child.  All nations will adore the Lord, as we read in today's responsorial Psalm.  God is king over all the earth.  All rulers will pay homage to Him just like the Magi did.  We are the Magi of today coming before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament offering our lives.  I have always loved the Magi. They were instrumental in my conversion because they were men of science who used the stars to find Christ.  In science, we can find God as well! God's creation points to God just like the star pointed to Christ (Job 12:7-10, Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20). The late astronaut and first American in space John Glenn said after seeing the earth from space, "To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible."

The magi found the Lord via the science of the stars, astronomy.  We know of their names as Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior from the document Excerpta et Collectanea which is attributed to St. Bede who died in 735.  Their relics are in the cathedral in Cologne, Germany.  You can read another reflection I wrote here for January 6: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2017/01/3-kings-day-los-reyes-magos.htm. In it, I elaborate more on how the Magi represents all the outsiders. The second reading reminds us as well by telling us that Gentiles are also coheirs and part of the body of Christ.

Christ was born for all people of all races, genders, orientation, faiths; in every time and place. He is the Savior of all!  The Gospel tells us that great story.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the magi came from the east asking King Herod where the newborn king of the Jews was. Herod did not like this because he saw himself as the king of the Jews. He asked the magi to bring him the child so he too can adore Him. They found the child via the star and saw Mary with Him.  The magi prostrated themselves and paid homage to the child and gave Him the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh as prophesied in the first reading of today. Before departing, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.  They listened and returned home via a different route.

The Epiphany is an awesome celebration in our faith. Many cultures celebrate it as another Christmas. Kids put hay under their beds for the camels and wake up to find the hay missing and gifts in their place. Other cultures have feasts and other celebrations commemorating the visit of the magi.  To me, the magi represents all peoples outside of Israel and academia coming to worship the Lord.  This is my personal reflection. The stars and all of nature pays homage to God and leads us to admire Him via His creation. Just recently, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he is no longer an atheist (see more here: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2017/01/facebooks-mark-zuckerberg-no-longer.html).  Even in the darkness we see in the world today and the thick clouds that clouds the minds of atheists and others, God shines through.  Let us humbly seek Christ the Lord who is the light. Let us approach Him in the Tabernacle and Monstrance and adore Him.  The magi were the first to participate in adoration in my opinion. Let us imitate them!  Instead of bringing gifts of gold etc, we have to bring the gifts of our holiness, love and kindness to others.  We must offer Him our trials and suffering as well and united them to His passion.  O' come let us adore Him!

Please remember to help me with this ministry which is focused on reaching out to those in the dark.  Please be generous as the Magi were and consider donating or becoming a regular donor. Any amount is useful. God can do anything with any amount.  You can donate via Paypal or www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus.  God will reward you!  I have already received emails from donors who received many blessings just months after donating.  As soon as I get permission from them, I will share those emails.  I am not a business man nor investor so I rely on God's providence and how He inspires visitors and readers to donate.  Financial means is not the only way to help. You can pray and also volunteer your talents.  God bless you and Mary keep!  

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010817.cfm


 

Here are more reflections from holy writers:

There is something more that must be understood about the gold, incense and myrrh. Solomon testifies that gold symbolizes wisdom when he says, "A pleasing treasure lies in the mouth of the wise." The psalmist bears witness to that incense which prayer offers to God when he says, "Let my prayer ascend as incense in your sight." The myrrh indicates the mortification of our bodies, of which the holy church speaks of its workmen who strive even unto death on behalf of God, "My hands dripped with myrrh."
And so do we too offer gold to the newborn king if we shine in his sight with the brightness of the wisdom from on high. We too offer him incense if we enkindle on the altar of our hearts the thoughts of our human minds by our holy pursuit of prayer, so as to give forth a sweet smell to God by our heavenly desire. And we offer him myrrh if we mortify the vices of our bodies by our self-denial.
Myrrh brings it about, as I have said, that dead bodies do not decompose. For a dead body to decompose is the same as for the human body of ours to become a slave to the decay of dissoluteness, as is said by the prophet: "The pack animals have decomposed in their own dung." This indicates fleshly minded persons who end their lives in the stench of dissoluteness. Therefore we are offering myrrh to God when we employ the spice of self-restraint to keep this earthly body of ours from decomposing through decadence.

— St. Gregory the Great
(540 - 604)


Source: "Forty Gospel Homilies, 10.6," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 28-29.

"Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word." Appropriately did Herod say, "Bring me word," for the one who hastens to come to Christ always brings a word of renunciation to the devil. When the priest says to the future Christian, "Do you renounce the devil?" the latter will answer, "I do renounce him." Properly therefore are the magi instructed to bring word to Herod, who realized he was taking the place of the devil. Satan knew how to corrupt a person.
"That I may come and worship him." He wants to lie but he cannot. He who feigned adoration will come that he might bow to abuse, kneel to inflict punishment, recline to do harm.… But when the clouds of treachery have passed, in the fair weather of emerging Christian faith, the magi behold again the star they had seen, preceding and leading them on. Finally they arrive at the most holy place of the Lord's birth.
— St. Peter Chrysologus
(380 - 450)



Source: "Sermons 158.8-9," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 25.



Since Herod was king, he was naturally afraid both for himself and for his children. But why was Jerusalem troubled? Surely the prophets had foretold him as the Savior, Benefactor and Deliverer who would come from above. But Jerusalem remained troubled by the same idolatrous affections that had previously caused them to turn from God precisely when God was pouring out his greatest benefits on them. While God was offering them new freedom, they were once again mindful only of the fleshpots of bondage in Egypt…
Although troubled, they nevertheless did not try to understand what was happening. They did not follow the wise men or even take any particular notice. To this extent were they both contentious and careless. This happened just when those in Jerusalem under Herod had reason to pride themselves that a king was being born among them. This had even attracted the attention of the wise from Persia. They were on the point of having everything going their way, as though their affairs were advancing toward improvement. But most did not even take notice. Amid an empire that had become so magnificent, they showed little improvement.
Jerusalem had only recently been delivered from subjugation. It might have been more reasonable for them to think, If the Persians tremble before this king now merely at his birth, wouldn't they tremble much more when he grows up? They would fear and obey him, and our situation might then be more glorious than that of the barbarians. Even if they knew nothing of mysteries or revelations but formed their judgments only on the basis of present self-interest, they surely might have thought along these lines. But nothing like this really occurred to them, so great was their dullness in prophecy and envy in human affairs.
Such dullness and envy must be rooted out of our minds. One must be more impassioned than fire to stand up against such an array. This is why Christ said, "I am come to send fire on earth, and how I wish it were already kindled." And the Spirit on this account appeared in fire.
— St. John Chrysostom
(347 - 407)


Source: "The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 6.4," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 22–23.

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