The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – Jan 30, 2011

It is a bit of a cheek to preach a sermon about the greatest sermon ever preached. For that is surely what the Sermon on the Mount is, and the Beatitudes are its summary. As an extraordinarily important religious text it stands by itself, and all we can do is talk around it and give thanks to God for it.


Who will enter the Kingdom?

First, it should be noted that the blessings of the today's Gospel are not only the program of the sanctity or the program of Christ's life, but they are primarily self-characterization of Christ Himself. He alone is poor in spirit, crying and quiet, humble and merciful, pure in heart, hungry for justice. He certainly is the peacemaker, and He suffers for righteousness and is persecuted; it is about Him that others utter all kind of evil words and lies. This is certainly a perfect picture of "Ebed Yahweh" - Suffering Servant of God, an image present in the Old Testament. It is worth remembering when we read those beautiful words. So who wants to follow Christ has to make these words the program of his life, both private and professional. It may not be a separation or gap between what I do on Sunday and my every day's life.

We should also notice the importance of the word "blessed." The word certainly can be understood as a promise of holiness, but furthermore it could be understood as the promise of God's blessings in once life. If I act in my life like that, if these principles are the guidelines of my daily life, I will receive God's blessing. The expression of these blessings is the fact, that with each blessing is associated a "reward" or promise.

For example:

The poor in spirit, will inherit the kingdom of heaven

The second meaning of the word "blessed" is closer to our contemporary desires and longings. We could even say that Jesus is telling or proposing us: "you could be happy only if you live this way." Do not be greedy, do not be too noisy in your life, be just, be merciful, be peaceful and not chaotic, have a pure heart and clean look, see the second man and honour him, and at the same time be prepared for misunderstandings, the mockery, the lies and disdain, the unpopularity, for the fact that you will not be "trendy" that sometimes you will not be "politically correct". But the prize, which you will gain exceeds significantly, what you (apparently) lost.

Many times I thought about the blessings of today's Gospel: Is it worth quoting again these beautiful words of the Beatitudes, and we ponder over them:

Their reward is

Blessed (happy) are:

· the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,

· those who mourn, they shall be comforted,

· the meek, they shall inherit the earth,

· those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall be satisfied,

· the merciful, they shall obtain mercy,

· the pure in heart, they will see God

· the peacemakers, they shall be called sons of God,

· those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven ,

· blessed are you when people insult you, rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven

· blessed are you when you are persecuted,

· blessed are you when others utter all kinds of evil against you because of me

In which of these categories can I recognize myself?

Am I not:

too rich and selfish?

or screaming and loud,

and proud,

unfair and indifferent, merciless?

does my heart, vision, thoughts do not flood the dirt and moral disorder?

or maybe my whole life is one big struggle and war with others?

Do I really live the spirit of the 8 beatitudes?

Will my reward be rather ... emptiness, loneliness, disappear? I have not seen the other, I was ignoring and neglectful and ... through eternity I will be alone ... unhappy, rejected, sad, abandoned ... just watching myself, because I always thought only of myself and for myself I lived! There is still time to change, yet I can change my life, I can still see the others, and stop living for myself.


One of the reasons it is the best sermon ever given is that Jesus treats his hearers with great respect. He gives no explanations or long detailed clarifications. He simply tells them some important truths which once heard seem self-evident to his listeners, who are if anything only strangely puzzled that they hadn't thought of them themselves.

We call it the Sermon on the Mount, a mount is just a sort of small hill or hummock; just high enough so that Jesus could be heard by the assembled company. But we immediately recognise that it is meant to be a parallel with Moses when he came down the mountain with the tablets of stone on which were engraved the Ten Commandments.

Yet despite the obvious similarities the two situations could not be more different. The differences are a sermon in themselves. They show how differently God chooses to deal with his people.

There was the great mountain with its blasted rocks and dense clouds and here is the grassy knoll in the sunshine.

There was Moses the fierce old man trying to hold his people together as a cohesive group; here is Jesus who respects the individuality of each human being and who builds up his followers with extraordinary gentleness and patience.

There were the tablets of the law, full of do's and don'ts and with the fear of punishment behind them; here are the Beatitudes which bring untold blessings on those who are embraced by them.

Truly things had come a long way by the time of Jesus, but after all so had we. Moses was there at, near enough, the beginning, Jesus is the culmination of all that went before. God revealed himself only slowly through the centuries but we now see him revealed in his fullness in his son Jesus.

As we have frequently said, to be a Christian is not to be a follower of a set of rules, it is to be born again, it is to live a new life. It is to turn around and see things from a totally different perspective.

Here in the Beatitudes Jesus gives us a completely new set of spectacles to look through.

Here in the Beatitudes we see the values of this world turned upside down. We see the world through the eyes of God himself. Through the eyes of the one who does the blessing, the one who makes the life of the poor, the gentle, the mourners, the fighters for justice and peace, the pure in heart and the persecuted, the one who makes all their lives a Beatitude.

The Beatitudes are a privileged glimpse at the world through the eyes of God. They are a wonderful opportunity to see things as they really are.

I clearly remember going to Scotland when my 92-year-old Aunt Helen died. She had been looked after by her ninety-year-old brother, John, but they never got on, even though they had lived in the same house all their lives.

That is until she took ill and was unable to do anything for herself. Then he opened his heart to her, he sold the smallholding where he spent most of his time and devoted himself to her care.

She couldn't communicate but John talked to her all day. He dressed her, cleaned her up and even fed her with a spoon. The place was an absolute tip but he cared for her with all the love and concern he had in him.

When she died I went to see him. He said words I can never forget: I never knew what love was, not till Helen got ill.

It was as if his whole life had been a preparation for those few years spent caring for her in her frailness and infirmity.

He said something else which is also imprinted on my memory: “other people don't understand. They think that what they see is the real world. But we know that there is another world that's just behind this one. And there it’s the things you can't see that really count.”

My Uncle John knew what the Beatitudes were about because he lived them out in his own life.

There are many people in the same position, we meet them every day, they wouldn’t recognise the Beatitudes if they fell over them in the street but they live them out each day of their lives. They have become Beatitudes to the people around them—like Jesus they are goodness and truth personified. And not a few of this congregation are counted in their number.

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS from the page:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday January, 28, 2011

Scripture: Mark 4:26-34

The Gospel’s today is containing two parables of a similar nature. The first parable may be called the “parable of the growing seed” or the “parable of the sleeping farmer”. The second parable can be called the “parable of the mustard seed”. Both parables compare the Kingdom of God to a tiny seed which grows.

The first parable is one that is useful for meditation by anyone raising children or caring for a community. It makes the point that the processes of maturation and growth are to a large extent outside of our control: “Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know.

We are encouraged to approach our tasks on behalf of the Kingdom with a sense of humility and realism. We are caught up in historical forces far larger than we are. It is not all up to us. I think of parents who “throw seed on the land,” the land here being the hearts and consciences of their children.

Very often they have no choice but to step back and surrender to the mysterious forces of growth in the lives of the children. Quite often they have to worry over their young adults who make life and lifestyle choices that conflict with their upbringing, like associating with a particular crowd. Fortunately, very often, their children grow out of their rebellion without the help of their parents, how, they do not know.

The second parable makes a contrast between the smallness of the seed that is planted and the great size of the tree which results. The seed grows, sprouts and “puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can make nets in its shade.

What can mustard seeds teach us about the kingdom of God? The tiny mustard seed literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they loved the little black mustard seed it produced. God’s kingdom works in a similar fashion. It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts of human who are receptive to God’s word. And it works unseen and causes a transformation from within. Just as a seed has no power to change itself until it is planted in the ground, so we cannot change our lives to be like God until God gives us the power of his Holy Spirit. The Lord of the universe is ever ready to transform us by the power of His Spirit. Are we ready to let God change us by His grace and power? The Kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive the new life which Jesus Christ offers. When we yield to Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. St. Paul said: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Do you believe in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit?

God, we thank you for your word which grows like a seed to produce a tree that “puts out big branches.” We thank you for being the kind of God that you are, a God who is large and who invites all people of all walks of life to come and find shade in the branches of the tree of the Kingdom.

Lord, we ask pardon as a nation for the many times when our vision of life is too small or too narrow. We construct visions of national development that benefit only certain sections of the community while others are left on the margins. We think about our country as if it belonged only to one set of citizens and not to others.

Lord, we also ask you for the gift of humility. Teach us the lesson that the growth of the Kingdom is not completely under our control but something for which we must pray, wait and hope. Help us to wait with a sense of hope knowing that “night and day, while we sleep, when we are awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, we do not know.”Amen.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle “A”

As I read the readings and the Gospel for this Sunday in preparation for the homily these themes brought back memories of an incident which took place in my life many years before.

I have a childhood friend back in Prince Albert, in Saskatchewan. I’ll call him Jack, that’s not his real name but just in case word gets back to him I don’t want to lose him for a friend. Today, Jack is quite well off. He has a couple of businesses. He has a few houses, a big boat and several cars. Each winter he and his wife Agnes go to Arizona for the winter. But, when we were kids back in PA growing up he was always a little bit of a worry to his mother.

We were both Catholic. We went to St. Paul’s Separate School. We were taught by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. Jack was never a very religious person. Anything to do with church and he would disappear. He would always try to skip Sunday Mass. Telling his mother that he had gone when in fact he had not. He was like that throughout his teen years also.

Several years ago, well actually about 45 years ago, when I was in my twenties, I went back to Prince Albert for a visit and I ended up at his house. His mother was there also.

I remember that after a nice supper we sat out on the back deck and his mother soon joined us. We began to reminisce about our childhood attending St. Paul Separate School and the trouble we used to get into there. And I just casually mentioned “Yeah, and you used to always pretend that you had gone to Mass when in fact you hadn’t.”

That did it. His mother started in on him just like she used to. He was only 26 years old and was already married twice. The first one was to a Catholic girl and they got married in the Catholic church and the second one was after he divorced the first one and got married again somewhere on the beach in the Dominican Republic. He hadn’t bothered to get a decree of nullity and so was now living in adultery. His Mother reminded him again that if he didn’t repent that he most probably was on his way to hell. And it bothered her a lot that Jack didn’t seem to care about heaven, hell or even God for that matter.

He responded by telling her that he didn’t believe in hell or in the Catholic church or in any of it’s teachings either. That was the wrong thing to say to his mom because then she began to tell both of us her version of one of Jesus’ parables about hell. You probably remember it. This is Jesus’ parable about the rich man and the poor man. Only Mom told it in her own words.

Both men had died. The rich man who had lived a sinful life ended up in hell while the poor man whose name was Lazarus ended up in heaven. The rich man was pleading that Lazarus be allowed to dip his hands in cool water and cross over to hell so that the rich man might quench his thirst since he was in agony being burnt with all the flames.

But Abraham, who apparently was in charge said, “No way. There is a huge valley between us and no one from heaven can go over there and no one from hell can come here.” Then said the rich man “If that’s the case, then can you please send Lazarus over to my Father’s house because I have 5 brothers and I don’t want them to end up in hell like me.” “No way” says Abraham. “They have the church and the Scriptures. Let them listen to and learn from them”.

“No”, said the rich man. “I never listened to the church and neither will they. If you send Lazarus from the dead to tell them about hell surely they will repent.” “No way” says Abraham “If they will not listen to the Church then neither will they be convinced and repent even if a dead man appears before them.”

Today, I know she was paraphrasing but back then I thought it was Gospel. For the exact words you need to read the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 16, verses 19-31. She ended her lecture with the words “You are on your way to hell, son. You need to come to the truth Jack and repent”. Her appeal to her son seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as Jack went on to divorce and marry again. However her words had a profound and lasting effect on me. It seems I was the victim (for lack of a better word) of collateral fire. Mom’s lecture was meant for Jack but I have never forgotten it.

What has that got to do with today’s readings?

Today being the 3rd Sunday in ordinary time the Gospel tells us that it is also the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. And what was the first word out of Jesus’ mouth as He began His ministry? Let me refresh our memory. “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent”. The first word out of Jesus mouth when He began His public ministry was “Repent”

What did Jesus mean “Repent”? To repent means to turn away from sin.

In order to repent we are told that we must first identify our sins, acknowledge our sins, confess our sins and then turn away from our sin. To do this correctly obviously we must be in possession of the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. In other words like Jack’s Mom said we need to be in possession of the truth.

What Jesus taught His disciples is the truth.

What His disciples taught their successors is the truth

What Jesus taught His church is the truth.

Therefore, what Jesus’ teaches us through His Church is the truth.

It follows then that if we are in the possession of the truths of the Catholic Faith then we are in possession of the truth. Jesus tells us that His Father in Heaven wants all people to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved.

And here, just like my friend Jack, we have a choice.

We can accept Jesus’ teachings as presented to us by the church or we can reject it – that is our free choice. God gave us free will and He loves us so much that He will not interfere with our choices right or wrong, truth or error. It’s our choice. For example, the bible and the church teach us that there is a heaven. Do we believe this? Heaven is the place about which eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as entered the mind of man, the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him. Our souls need to be absolutely spotless when we die in order for us to enter heaven.

The Bible and the Church also teach that there is such a thing as sin. The bible says that not all sin is mortal, that is, not all sin is deadly. Therefore there are sins which are deadly and there as sins which are not deadly.

We call these sins venial and mortal sins. Venial because they are not sufficiently grave enough to separate us completely from God. Others are called mortal because they are deadly – they separate us completely from God.

The Bible and the Church teach that there is a place called Hell. Do we believe this? Hell is the place that is reserved for the devil and his angels. It is the place of awful and terrible punishment where those who die unrepentant with mortal sins on their souls choose to spend all eternity with the devil and his angels separated from God.

Did you know that Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven? No wonder He started His ministry with the word “Repent” – He is warning His dear children. Jesus doesn’t want us to choose Hell. The Bible and the Church teach that there is a place called Purgatory. Do we believe this?

Purgatory is the place where those who die with venial sins on their souls, or those who die without having made full reparation for their sins are purged of these sins and the attachment to sin before they can enter heaven. They are assured of their salvation but they must be purified first before entering heaven. The bible tells us that nothing impure can enter heaven. That is why we pray for those who have died, in case they are in need of our prayers – If they are in heaven they have no need of our prayers. If they are in Hell our prayers cannot help them. If they are in purgatory – our prayers on their behalf can help them.

All of these truths are called Dogmas. This means that they are divinely revealed truths which the church presents to us to be believed. Catholics are required to believe all Dogmas since they are divinely revealed truths.

Jesus instituted the sacrament of Reconciliation, confession. He did this for a reason. This was the way that Jesus chose to forgive sins after He had left us and ascended into heaven. If, like my friend Jack, we say that we have no need for confession to a priest and that we will confess our sins directly to God – that is not the way Jesus set it up – but that’s our choice. We have free will. If God says that we need the sacrament of Reconciliation and we say we don’t – that’s our choice.

Jesus instituted that Sacrament of Marriage.

If, like my friend Jack, we say that as that Catholics we don’t need a sacramental marriage – we can marry, and divorce and then marry again. And still come up and receive Holy Communion – If we believe that - then that’s our choice. That’s not the teaching of Jesus or the church and to do so means that we are committing a worse sin - a sin of Sacrilege - but that’s our choice. Jesus gave us His Body and His Blood, His soul and His divinity when He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion.

He said “This is My Body, this is My Blood and He meant it literally. If we say that it is rather just a symbol of His Body and Blood – that is not what Jesus taught and that is not what the Church says. The Bible in John chapter 6 teaches clearly that it is the Body and Blood of Christ. But, if we choose not to believe then just like my friend Jack, that’s our choice. God loves us and will not interfere in our choice.

In fact, God loves us so much that He will not interfere in our choices even if our choice puts us in Hell for all eternity over Eternal Life with Him in heaven. If we have closed our mind to hearing the truth then what the Holy Father says, what the Bishop says, what Father says will not have much effect on us because we have already made up our minds.

My friend Jack is quite comfortable with his beliefs or non-belief - just as it is.

What he chooses to believe may not be the truth but he seems ready to accept the consequences. Jack knows the teaching of the Catholic Church but he continues to reject it – for now. He says when he gets on in years he may change his mind. But right now he’s not ready to do so.

My dear friends, the only way for us to know the truth is to ask God for the grace to know the truth when we see it. The only way to the truth is not through our own knowledge or ideas but rather through Jesus Christ. We can’t save ourselves.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Him. Jesus has provided a way for us to come to the knowledge of the truth. That is why He gave us a church. So that we might be guided to the truth. We need to turn on the light of Christ in our lives. We need to examine our lives and see where we need that light to shine. Where in our lives might we have rejected the truth?

When I was a kid, my mom and dad invited Father to come and bless our house. For the whole week before we kids had to help clean the house. Everything that did not belong in the living room was carted downstairs. Everything that did not belong in the dining room went downstairs into the basement. Likewise with the kitchen and the bedrooms. Everything that didn’t belong or was in the road went downstairs. On Saturday, Father came and blessed the house. He blessed the living room and dining room. The walls the ceilings, the windows, that bathroom, the kitchen and the bedrooms. He blessed the whole of the upstairs including the cat on the couch. (who didn’t like the Holy water very much).

Then Father started to leave. He put on his hat and coat and as he reached for the door he noticed the basement door and so he grabbed his holy water and headed for the basement. But, he was too slow because Mom headed him off at the door and said “That’s OK Father, the house is all blessed. Thank you very much.” Dad then gave Father a stipend and off he went.

Dad had a puzzled look as he wondered why Mom didn’t want the basement blessed and so he headed for the basement. He turned that light on and there it was - “Poof”, all the junk from upstairs was piled at the bottom of the basement steps. No wonder she didn’t want Father to see that mess. Sometimes our lives are like that. Everything seems bright and rosy as long as we don’t turn on that light in our basement.

We need to turn on the light of Christ in our lives. We need to accept his invitation to repent. Repentance gives us a chance to clean that basement. Repentance gives us a chance to identify our sins, acknowledge them and confess them. Then the light of Christ washes away all our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We should not be divided in our beliefs. We need to accept the teachings of the Church. If we are Catholic then we should all be of one mind, one belief. If we are not, then we should ask Christ to show us the way to the truth.

St. Paul tells us: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.

He goes on to warn us: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (that is those who are on their way to hell) but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.

God Bless you.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thursday January 20, 2011

Scripture: Mark 3: 7-12

The Gospel’s today is a summary of the activity of Jesus and it stresses an enormous contrast. If you meditate the Gospel from last Friday until yesterday, you will see the conflicts of the life and death between Jesus and the civil and religious authority of Galilee. And here, in the summary, we see the contrary: a big popular movement, greater than the movement of John the Baptist, because people come not only from Galilee, but also from Judea, from Jerusalem, from Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and even from the pagan region of Tyre and Sidon to encounter Jesus! They want to see him and to touch him. The people are so numerous, that Jesus himself is concerned. There is the danger of being crushed by the multitude. This is why he asks the disciples to have a boat ready for him so that the crowd would not crush him. And from the boat he spoke to the crowds. There were the excluded and the marginalized who came to him with their illness. Those who were not accepted to live in the society of the time were accepted by Jesus. Here is the contrast: on the one side the religious and civil leaders decided to put Jesus to death (Mk 3, 6); on the other side, a big popular movement seeking salvation in Jesus. Who will win?
First of all, the unclean spirits and Jesus. Mark insists very much on the expulsion of the unclean spirits. The first miracle of Jesus is the expulsion of the unclean spirits (Mk 1, 25). The first impact caused by Jesus is due to the expulsion of the devil (Mk 1, 27). One of the principal causes of the clash of Jesus with the Scribes is the expulsion of the unclean spirits (Mk 3, 22). The first power which the Apostles received when they were sent out on mission was the power to expel the demons (Mk 16, 17). What does it mean in Mark’s Gospel to drive out or expel the evil spirits?

Second, at the time of Mark the fear of the devil was increasing. Some religions instead of liberating the people, increased fear and anguish. One of the objectives of the Good News of Jesus is precisely to help people to liberate themselves from this fear. The coming of the Kingdom means the coming of a stronger power. Jesus is “the stronger man” who has come to conquer and overcome Satan, the power of evil, and to take away from him, to rob humanity imprisoned by fear (Mk 3, 27). This is why Mark insists very much on the victory of Jesus over the power of evil, over the devil, over Satan, sin and death. From the beginning to the end of Mark’s Gospel, with almost similar words, he repeats the same message: “And Jesus drove out, expelled the impure spirits!” It seems almost a refrain which is repeated! Today, instead of using always the same words, we prefer to use different words. We would say: “The power of evil, Satan, which causes so much fear to people; Jesus overcomes him, dominates him, conquers him, threw him off the throne, drove him out or expelled him, eliminated him, knocked him down, destroyed him and killed him!” What Mark wants to tell us is the following: “Christians are forbidden to be afraid of Satan!” After Jesus rose from the dead, it is a mania and a lack of faith to call in cause Satan, at every moment, as if he still had any power on us. To insist on the danger of the devil in order that people may return to Church means to ignore the Good News of the Kingdom. It is a lack of faith in the Resurrection of Jesus!

How do we live our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus? Does it help in some way to help us overcome fear? To drive away or expel the devil! What do we do in order to neutralize this power in our life?

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. Inflame our heart with a burning love for you and with an expectant faith in your saving power. Set us free from all that hinders us from drawing closer to you.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - A

The testimony of John the Baptist

A challenge for us

What do we really miss today? Money? I don't think so. Or maybe the sociological promises of paradise on earth? Or is it the certainty of a better future that we are short of? Or, did we miss today maybe, "great politicians" who care only -after all- for themselves and not for the good of people? Or maybe we are lacking the word enchanters and alchemists of speech? Or do we miss the actors and "showmen"? Certainly not!

I think that the most what we miss today are the witnesses! We are missing the witnesses with clear and transparent message, clear, honest and unambiguous witnesses, those who in their lives give testimony to the truth like John the Baptist. We miss people who are not afraid to be unpopular or contested for the direct witness to the truth. People who are not afraid to be unfashionable, or old-fashioned and shy, because they bear witness to the steadfast principles and moral standards, because the witnesses like John who are going against "the current" of fashions and political correctness. What we really miss today are people who are not ashamed to be faithful and righteous. What we miss today are people, for whom "yes" means "yes" and "no" means "no."

John the Baptist, which we know that he was a man of uncompromising and not afraid of the truth, it is for us – Christians- an example of a right and honest attitude toward the truth. He is a model of the witness. He is not afraid of those who follow Jesus, but to give witness to Him and gives clear and decisive testimony, saying: "I give witness the one who is the Son of God."

Can we also give witness to our faith? Or rather are we ashamed to admit that we are honest, upright, and frank, that Christ is our Master and Lord of our life? Are we not ashamed to be the witnesses of Jesus, because it is sometimes difficult, out of fashion, because it requires too much, because it is inconvenient?

- For a deeper reflection - Is the Church not criticized, is God not neglected or ignored precisely because of the fact that I am not a clear and transparent witness?

Monday, January 03, 2011

02. 01. 2011 Epiphany of the Lord

The story of the Epiphany which is only recounted in the Gospel of Matthew is most curious. Who are these Magi? And what is this star that guides them first to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem?
There are all sorts of interesting allusions here and many connections to be made. By Magi we understand that they were probably Zoroastrian astrologers from Persia. But while Christians were strongly warned elsewhere in the New Testament against dabbling in astrology these Magi are presented by Matthew as truly commendable.
Some suggest that the homage that they pay to Jesus is a kind of giving way by astrology and other magical theories to the truth of Christianity. Others say that this incident is to show that even the pagan world had some understanding of the importance of Christ’s role and had inklings of his birth.

Then there is the curiosity of the star. One theory suggests that it was a supernova; others are of the opinion that it was a comet or a conjunction of planets. Or is Matthew simply using a literary device to explain how these astrologers were guided to the stable at Bethlehem? A confessed feminist asked me why God gave the star to the wise men. I professed ignorance. She told me with glee, "God knows men are too proud to ask directions, so He gives you always only the stars to guide you."

I think that we have to look at all these things in the light of the title given to the feast. It is an Epiphany, a manifestation. God makes himself known to the world and to specific individuals.

Ironically the people who should have been most sensitive to the things of God are totally unaware of what is happening in their midst while these strangers from afar show a remarkable awareness of the great intervention of God that had occurred in Bethlehem.
God makes himself known; he leads and guides people on their journey through life. We believe that God continually draws all people to himself and often he does so in the most unobtrusive ways.

Recently I came upon a story that I would like to share with you. In this story the three wise men, Gaspar, Balthassar and Melchior, were three different ages. Gaspar was a young man, Balthassar a middle aged man and Melchior an elderly man. They found a cave where the Holy One was and entered to do him homage one at a time.

  • Melchior the old man entered first. He found an old man like himself in the cave. They shared stories and spoke of memory and gratitude.

  • Middle aged Balthassar entered next. He found a man his own age there. They spoke passionately about leadership and responsibility.

  • Young Gaspar was the last to enter. He found a young prophet waiting for him. They spoke about reform and promise.

Afterward when the three kings spoke to each other about their encounter with the Christ, they were shocked at each other’s stories. So they got their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh together and all three went into the cave. They found a baby there, the infant Jesus only twelve days old.

There is also -in today's Gospel- the question of a different attitude toward Jesus Christ, the Messiah. We have first - the shepherds running with joy to recognize in the child the promised Messiah, we have the wise men searching the truth, searching for the new born Kings, ready to recognize their limits and to accept the words and prophesy of the scriptures, we have the priests and the scribes, who know exactly the prophecies about Messiah but are not at all interested, and finally we have the King Herod, who is afraid of new born Christ.

To which of these four categories do I belong?

There is a deep message here. Jesus reveals himself to all people, at all stages of their lives, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Our pictures of Jesus are basically those as conceived by Western European artists. That’s OK, but Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew. If you were to go to Mexico, representations of Jesus would be that of a Mexican. Or an Asian in many places in the East. That is all acceptable, because Jesus has revealed himself of coming for all people, all places. In the Second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says that this is the great secret of the ages: that the Christ came not just for the Jews but to be one with all people, Gentiles or non-Jews alike. You are also included …

The only one condition is to be able to accept the TRUTH with open mind and honest heart.