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Father Michael

Pastor's Letter 20200105 - 5 January 2020 - A Light for the Gentiles

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A Message from Father Michael

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5 January 2020

The Feast of the Epiphany

Today’s Theme:

 “A Light for the Gentiles”

 A Revolutionary Feast
Today, we celebrate the appearance of Our Blessed Lord, Jesus, on the human scene.  The feast of Epiphany is celebrated in order to bring out a prominent aspect of the Christmas Mystery:  the manifestation or “epiphany” of the universal dominion of the newborn King, to the whole world—not simply to the Jews through the Scriptures.  As was dramatized in the Lord Jesus’ manifestation to the Magi, or “wise men” from the East, Christian tradition has always seen the “first fruits of the Gentiles” in the Magi.  They lead all the peoples of the earth in their wake, thus making  the Epiphany a universal affirmation of eternal salvation. The perfect equality of all mankind is stressed, particularly, in today’s Second Reading (Ephesians 3:2-6,) wherein we all become “one body” in Christ.  Today’s feast shows that election by God is not a privilege for some, but a hope for all, eliminating every kind of exclusivism.  

Although Jesus’ ministry was primarily restricted to His own people, He also reached out to Samaritans, Canaanites, foreigners and all kinds of the socially outcast.  In that, He angered the Jewish leaders by telling them the Kingdom of God was open to everyone.  The news that Gentiles would be accepted on equal terms to their own caused shock and bewilderment to the Jews.  And He reinforced this in His final commissioning of the apostles, saying, “Go out into the whole world, making disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19.)

Entrusted by God with our sanctification, the Church’s public worship, rites and sacraments, official prayers, feasts and liturgical seasons are the methods used to unite us to Christ, and to transform our souls to the likeness of His unrelenting light. This is emphasized in the words from today’s blessing: “This day Christ appeared to the world as a light shining in the darkness.  May you follow Him in faith and be a light to others.”  Every year, from Advent to Pentecost, we celebrate the principal events of our Savior’s life, not as a mere commemoration, but to renew us by the application of the special graces, which the celebration of each event brings to us.  This living communication of the mysteries of Christ permeates our souls with authentic Christian life.  The significance and spirit of these liturgical celebrations teaches us to allow ourselves to be guided by them in order to penetrate into the heart of the Christian mystery, and derive full benefit from their supernatural efficacy.  

The principal purpose of the Christmas season is to remind us of the radical transformation that took place in all human lives due to the Incarnation of the Word.  God’s own Son became not only one of us, He gave us the power to truly become children of God; a new and holy people whom He quickens with His divine Life and leads to heaven.  The Incarnation began here on earth as a “new order,” the final consequence of which is to be our definitive union with God in heaven.   In the sacred humanity of our Savior, we find the ever-flowing spring of our supernatural life that draws down upon all mankind the full accomplishment of the redemptive work begun by His coming into this world.   

Significance of the Magi

After the devastation of the world by sin and the darkening of humanity; after centuries of preparation and longing, (which included no less than the founding of an entire people set apart from God;) after wars, division, exile and foreign domination; after a lowly birth to a humble Jewish couple...after all this, the revelation of Christ as the eternal Son of God was finally manifested to the nations.  

Only a work of God in their hearts could have moved men of learning--sages from the East--who were comfortable in their own kingdoms, to be drawn to Him.  What power could have moved them to leave their homes and positions of prominence behind to undertake such an uncertain journey? And then, what could inspire them to recognize the One they were coming to worship. 

These were men who were steeped in astrology (an early form of what has become today our science of astrophysics,) were guided by their appreciation of the natural world.  As such, it was an imperfect revelation, for it told them of the birth of the “King of the Jews,” not where they could find Him.  The ultimate secret of His whereabouts was locked in the special revelation of God to Israel, namely, in the Scriptures--about which they would have had little or no knowledge.  Matthew contrasts the faith of these pagan visitors and the unbelief of the Jewish leaders (civil and religious.)  The pagans have answered the call to faith in Christ, whereas the “chosen people” have, for the most part, rejected it.  

Fathers of the Church have held that the sages’ giftsreveal that they recognized—even if only to a small extent—Who this Baby was: Gold as tribute for a king; incense offered as praise to God; and myrrh, the ointment used to soothe the sufferings of humanity.  Yet all three were presented to Jesus, because, as true God and true man, He had been given all royal authority and holy dominion.  By offering their gifts, the wise men pointed to Jesus’ deity, nobility and the fact that long-awaited salvation could only come about through His suffering and death.

Theirs was a bold and courageous journey—appearing to many as foolhardy.  It couldn’t have been an easy undertaking.  No doubt they encountered many difficulties, and moments of doubt and danger.  Every time their “guiding star” would have disappeared under clouds, or in the light of day, they would have temporarily lost their bearings.  They must have questioned whether they were wasting their time. Nonetheless, Matthew relates they still journeyed on faith—having no idea where the star was leading them.  Ultimately, they were rewarded with finding the Christ Child (but then, too, “seeing does not necessarily mean believing.”) 

 We cannot help but be amazed by the fruit that was borne from the journey of these wise men!  In their wake, generation after generation of the wise have bowed down before the humble Child of Nazareth.  Like the wealth of the nations, in the prophet’s words (Isaiah 60:5,) men and women from every age have laid their treasures before Christ, renouncing the apparent wealth of this world to embrace the real wealth that is found in repentance, faith, and humility. 

We have a striking advantage over the Magi—we have encountered Christ in our faith, aided by two millennia of teaching and belief.  We intimately know Christ as the “Light of the World,” and as the “Star” that we follow.  Nevertheless, we should not be surprised when we have doubts and when we encounter difficulties in our journey of faith.  Faith doesn’t guarantee we will have an easy path, only a meaningful one.  Like the Magi, we do not travel alone—we are part of a community of believers to support us.

A holy Native American, Black Elk, is quoted as having said; “It is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and changing shadows.  Among those shadows people get lost.”*  This is exactly what the Magi did—setting out in pursuit of a great vision and following that vision to its end. 

Blessed Are Those Who Believe

The essence of the Good News is this:  God made Himself present to us in the life of One Who walked upon this earth--indeed so truly present that this One, Jesus, was His Son.  This revelation was an offence and contradiction to some, but salvation to those who had eyes to see, and hearts to believe.  The Magi serve as the forerunners of all those who would come to worship the risen Jesus proclaimed by the apostles.  Their story shows us the great benefits of faith.  Herod and many in Jerusalem were troubled because of their unbelief.  Their fear contrasts with the great joy the Magi felt as they followed the star on the road to Bethlehem.  

An overall theme of the happiness and blessedness pervades the Gospel for those who believe.  All of Jesus’ preaching was intended to elicit faith in people’s hearts.  However, it was not simply a matter of believing, but believing and acting on that belief, and living according to it.  It is a question of hearing the Word and doing it; taking risks on it; and making sacrifices because of it.   

May God Richly Bless You!

 

“Out of the Darkness, Into the Light: The Time of Christmas is the Time of Light and mutual Love.” 
(Sir Kristian Goldmund Aumann) 

* Nebraska poet laureate, John G. Neihardt: “Black Elk Speaks.” (1932)

Let Your Light Shine.docx

Let Your Light Shine.mp3

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Thanks for these postings. I am learning from them. I don’t live in Boquete and have no car so going to your church is to difficult.

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