Sunday, January 2, 2011

Nations shall walk by your light

Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord—A

Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

Too often, it seems, Christianity is drawn into the political arena, where it becomes a sparring partner in the daily round of partisan debates. There, it takes a beating, but also is just as capable of delivering stinging blows (sometimes self-inflicted).

Today’s readings and celebration of Epiphany invite us to step back for a moment to reassess who we truly are, what the Church is truly about, and which battles are worth fighting. Three themes come to mind:
  • The Church is UNIVERSAL. God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ belongs to all people of every race, nation, and age. It is not an exclusive club bestowing privilege on the few; rather, it is the Body of Christ whose responsibility it is to draw all humankind into God’s embrace. All three of today’s readings point to this truth. Isaiah tells us that “Nations shall walk by your light,” while Paul emphasizes that the Gentiles (the “outsiders” in the early days of Christianity) are “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Finally, the magi in Matthew’s Gospel are foreigners, the first “Gentiles” to see and follow the light of Christ.
  • We are a PILGRIM Church, journeying like the magi in this world in search of a personal encounter with our Savior, to whom we offer our gifts of public praise. The magi experienced the newborn Savior, but they had yet to experience the crucified and risen Christ. We, too, journey in stages toward the promise of Christ, and we do so as a community of believers. As Isaiah prophesies, “All gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.”
  • We are meant to be a SIGN to the world of God’s offer of salvation through a personal encounter with Christ. Epiphany means “manifestation,” and our mission as the Church is to make visible the redeeming work of Christ as expressed by the Gospel. We are stewards of God’s grace. We are that shining star by whose light others should be drawn into the wonderful mystery of Christ. Sometimes, yes, shining brightly means a willingness to step into the ring and fight for what is true. But let us also not forget what makes Christians unique, and that is daily living governed by:
    The Ten Commandments
    The Eight Beatitudes
    The Three Theological Virtues
    The Four Cardinal Virtues
    The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
    The 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit
    The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
    The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy
    And, of course, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving
Scripture, tradition, and the sacramental life of the Church as the worshipping Body of Christ infuse us with that light that must be seen by others. If it cannot be seen, what is the point? And, I would propose that the ray of light most capable of penetrating deeply into the heart of another is Christian JOY, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. As the Gospel tells us, the magi were “overjoyed at seeing the star.”

Let us pray together and for one another, then, at this dawn of a new year, that our joy may shine brightly throughout the world, drawing all humankind into God’s embrace as we journey toward the Savior and manifest His grace as the Body of Christ. In the words of Isaiah, “Raise your eyes and look about. You shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow.”

Joy to the world. Amen.

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