January 4, 2015: The Epiphany of the Lord
Catholic Social Teaching: Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Human rights are to be defended not only individually but also as a whole: protecting them only partially would imply a kind of failure to recognize them. They correspond to the demands of human dignity and entail, in the first place, the fulfilment of the essential needs of the person in the material and spiritual spheres. “These rights apply to every stage of life and to every political, social, economic and cultural situation. Together they form a single whole, directed unambiguously towards the promotion of every aspect of the good of both the person and society … The integral promotion of every category of human rights is the true guarantee of full respect for each individual right”. Universality and indivisibility are distinctive characteristics of human rights: they are “two guiding principles which at the same time demand that human rights be rooted in each culture and that their juridical profile be strengthened so as to ensure that they are fully observed”. (154) Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm: 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Second Reading: Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
Catechism of the Catholic Church
From the Daily Roman Missal, Introduction to the Epiphany of the Lord, Cycle A, B and C
The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighbouring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. the magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Saviour of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”). (528)
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
At the beginning of its history, the people of Israel are unlike other peoples in that they have no king, for they recognize the dominion of Yahweh alone. It is God who intervenes on Israel’s behalf through charismatic individuals, as recorded in the Book of Judges. The people approach the last of these individuals, Samuel, prophet and judge, to ask for a king (cf. 1 Sam 8:5; 10:18-19). Samuel warns the Israelites about the consequences of a despotic exercise of kingship (cf. 1 Sam 8:11-18). However, the authority of the king can also be experienced as a gift of Yahweh who comes to the assistance of his people (cf. 1 Sam 9:16). In the end, Saul is anointed king (cf. 1 Sam 10:1-2). These events show the tension that brought Israel to understand kingship in a different way than it was understood by neighbouring peoples. The king, chosen by Yahweh (cf. Dt 17:15; 1 Sam 9:16) and consecrated by him (cf. 1 Sam 16:12-13), is seen as God’s son (cf. Ps 2:7) and is to make God’s dominion and plan of salvation visible (cf. Ps 72). The king, then, is to be the defender of the weak and the guarantor of justice for the people. The denunciations of the prophets focus precisely on the kings’ failure to fulfil these functions (cf. 1 Kg 21; Is 10:1-4; Am 2:6-8, 8:4-8; Mic 3:1-4). (377)
The prototype of the king chosen by Yahweh is David, whose humble origins are a favourite topic of the biblical account (cf. 1 Sam 16:1-13). David is the recipient of the promise (cf. 2 Sam 7:13-16; Ps 89:2-38, 132:11-18), which places him at the beginning of a special kingly tradition, the “messianic” tradition. Notwithstanding all the sins and infidelities of David and his successors, this tradition culminates in Jesus Christ, who is par excellence “Yahweh’s anointed” (that is, “the Lord’s consecrated one”, cf. 1 Sam 2:35, 24:7,11, 26:9,16; Ex 30:22-32), the son of David (cf. Mt 1:1-17; Lk 3:23-38; Rom 1:3).
The failure of kingship on the historical level does not lead to the disappearance of the ideal of a king who, in fidelity to Yahweh, will govern with wisdom and act in justice. This hope reappears time and again in the Psalms (cf. Ps 2, 18, 20, 21, 72). In the messianic oracles, the figure of a king endowed with the Lord’s Spirit, full of wisdom and capable of rendering justice to the poor, is awaited in eschatological times (cf. Is 11:2-5; Jer 23:5-6). As true shepherd of the people of Israel (cf. Ezek 34:23-24, 37:24), he will bring peace to the nations (cf. Zech 9:9-10). In Wisdom Literature, the king is presented as the one who renders just judgments and abhors iniquity (cf. Prov 16:12), who judges the poor with equity (cf. Prov29:14) and is a friend to those with a pure heart (cf. Prov 22:11). There is a gradual unfolding of the proclamation of what the Gospels and other New Testament writings see fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, the definitive incarnation of what the Old Testament foretold about the figure of the king. (378)
Psalm 72: 3 and 7
The promise of peace that runs through the entire Old Testament finds its fulfilment in the very person of Jesus. Peace, in fact, is the messianic attribute par excellence, in which all other beneficial effects of salvation are included. The Hebrew word “shalom” expresses this fullness of meaning in its etymological sense of “completeness” (cf. Is 9:5ff; Mic 5:1-4). The kingdom of the Messiah is precisely the kingdom of peace (cf. Job 25:2; Ps 29:11; 37:11; 72:3,7; 85:9,11; 119:165; 125:5, 128:6; 147:14; Song 8:10; Is 26:3,12; 32:17f.; 52:7; 54:10; 57:19; 60:17; 66:12; Hag 2:9; Zech 9:10; et al.). Jesus “is our peace” (Eph 2:14). He has broken down the dividing wall of hostility among people, reconciling them with God (cf.Eph 2:14-16). This is the very effective simplicity with which Saint Paul indicates the radical motivation spurring Christians to undertake a life and a mission of peace.
On the eve of his death, Jesus speaks of his loving relation with the Father and the unifying power that this love bestows upon his disciples. It is a farewell discourse which reveals the profound meaning of his life and can be considered a summary of all his teaching. The gift of peace is the seal on his spiritual testament: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 14:27). The words of the Risen Lord will not be any different; every time that he meets his disciples they receive from him the greeting and gift of peace: “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19,21,26). (491)
Peace is the goal of life in society, as is made extraordinarily clear in the messianic vision of peace: when all peoples will go up to the Lord’s house, and he will teach them his ways and they will walk along the ways of peace (cf. Is 2:2-5). A new world of peace that embraces all of nature is the promise of the messianic age (cf. Is 11:6-9), and the Messiah himself is called “Prince of peace” (Is 9:5). Wherever his peace reigns, wherever it is present even in part, no longer will anyone be able to make the people of God fearful (cf. Zeph 3:13). It is then that peace will be lasting, because when the king rules according to God’s justice, righteousness flourishes and peace abounds “till the moon be no more” (Ps 72:7). God longs to give peace to his people: “he will speak of peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts” (Ps 85:9). Listening to what God has to say to his people about peace, the Psalmist hears these words: “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss” (Ps 85:11). (490)
Jesus challenged the status quo of King Herod and continues to challenge the status quo of today. Are we so absorbed in the tunnel vision of our own reality that we fail to see the light of the glory of the Lord? Do we look at our feet, walking like on egg shells, fearful of the response from loosening chains of oppressions and dominance?
The magi saw the hope from the star rising because they gazed towards the broad expanse of the heavenly horizons. Beyond their own status quo, a looking for insight to quench the yearning of the human heart. A narrow mindset would not have afforded them this perspective. They asked questions, “Where was the newborn king of the Jews?”, did not cooperate with systemic systems of control and chartered another course to avoid conspiring with evil. They opened their treasures and gave the best they had, preceded by praise. Three gifts, but how many magi followed the star? Tradition portrays three magi in diverse ethnicity to represent the nations reveling in the good news of the Incarnation. An affirmation of the universality of Jesus’ message, applicable to the needs, challenges and hope across demographic divides imposed by earthly dictates.
Let the magi be our role models today. Harmonious cooperation towards a common purpose, by diverse cultural groups. A spirit of giving not the leftovers of our lives of time, talent or a pittance of our treasures, but the best of who we are and what we have been given. Doing anything less we create idols sidetracking our journey of faith into the reality of dead end roads necessitating u turns. The magi were people of action, seeing the star rising they came. They did not think about it for a while, wait till it was convenient on their schedule, but came at the star’s rising. Importantly, the magi assessed sectors of power and control and heeded warnings to chart a new course to return to their home by another way. A physical journey, but also a paradigm shift to live life inspired by a new light to guide them.
What questions must we ask today? Challenging questions rooted in hope to accentuate the light of the Lord’s ways. The radiance of justice and profound peace to dissipate darkness and thick clouds of despair covering people from a breadth of injustices. May the light leave us overjoyed and filled with perseverance to question narrowness, control and exploitation in institutions, the social milieu, economic and political systems. A resolve to not let anyone or any system derail us from challenging the status quo absorbed with indifference to the sacred dignity of humanity.
Individual Reflection: Matthew 2:1-12
What gifts will you give to the Lord in the New Year?
Family Reflection: Matthew 2:1-12
As the Christmas season concludes, as a family, prayerful recite and reflect on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Afterwards share the blessings and challenges of the Christmas season and how you will carry the hope of Christmas into the New Year,
Dear Lord, Help us to always see your star rising in our hearts to infuse us with the grace to live as the magi. May the Spirit guide us to ask challenging questions. May you give us the courage to venture into the human experience of life to places we might not envision we would tread to challenge oppression impacting all facets of the human experience. Let our lives proclaim your justice and may our actions acknowledge your peace as the only path to journey. Lord Jesus, we give you homage and praise. Amen
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By Barb Born December 28, 2014 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.