January 8, 2017: The Epiphany of the Lord
Catholic Social Teaching: Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
The Church’s love for the poor is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, by the poverty of Jesus and by his attention to the poor. This love concerns material poverty and also the numerous forms of cultural and religious poverty. The Church, “since her origin and in spite of the failing of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defence and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere”. Prompted by the Gospel injunction, “You have received without paying, give without pay” (Mt 10:8), the Church teaches that one should assist one’s fellow man in his various needs and fills the human community with countless works of corporal and spiritual mercy. “Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God” even if the practice of charity is not limited to alms-giving but implies addressing the social and political dimensions of the problem of poverty. In her teaching the Church constantly returns to this relationship between charity and justice: “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice” The Council Fathers strongly recommended that this duty be fulfilled correctly, remembering that “what is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”. Love for the poor is certainly “incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use” (cf. Jas 5:1-6). (184)
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
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.212 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)
From the Daily Roman Missal, Introduction to tThe Epiphany of the Lord, Cycle A, B and C
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. Prov 29:14) 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)
How do we morph the story to jazz up the details? Creches in our parishes have the astrologers, possibly Persian priests, become kings arriving at the manger, but scripture says they entered a house. Three gifts brought to the manger, no mention of the number of magi, but we sing, We Three Kings. Letting imagination take hold of the story, do we fizz the punch line of a story clothed in humility? The new born king coming for all people, Jews and Gentiles as co-heirs, co-partners in the promise of Christ Jesus. Rising star illuminating star of God’s humble purpose. Davidic lineage in Bethlehem, not a messianic king striding into Jerusalem with army in tow. Troubling thoughts to the local representative of the Roman Emperor, King Herod. The smugness of all Jerusalem quaked along with their earthly king. Thirty plus years of oppression , dominance and fiscal plundering might unravel, status dethroned, a challenge to power unexpectedly rising. Guided by words of the prophet Micah, reality set in, strategy formulated and the magi set out. A physical sign, the start, affirmed the prophet’s words leading them to Jesus with his mother, Mary. Unlike the king and all Jerusalem, fretting over a challenge to their power, the magi payed Jesus homage and offered gifts representing his kingship, divinity and redemptive suffering. Gifts signifying virtue, prayer and suffering. Gifts not given from an imposition, but offered. A gesture robed humility.
Do we force our gifts on others or offer them in service of the Lord ? Do we, like the magi, offer the best of what we have, not offering a pittance? Do we offer to the Lord, after we have followed the star, the gift of not only things,, just material stuff, but the gift of ourselves to serve him, serve others in enhancing his kingdom? For ourselves and what we have is not ours to possess, but only a divine gift we have been entrusted with. As we hear the words of the prophets, the scriptural accounts, our seeking leads us to the brilliant light of the star illuminating our journey in the most unlikely places, the Jerusalem’s of our world today. Out of the glare of earthly power and what might seem obvious locales, to places that strip us of pride to the paradox of homage by giving of ourselves. The transformation of the secure to the realm of humility, so we chart a new path, new environs, a new way. A place where we do not just gaze at the star, but follow the star, an act of faith, an action of perseverance. The end to rationalizing systemic injustice, realizing only the Father and His Son endow justice and profound peace for eternity. A rule initiated in the known ancient world, from one end to the other of the Mediterranean Sea, extending down to the lands of the Euphrates Rivers, the promise was made to further justice and peace to the ends of the earth. Lands now known, lands now evangelized, lands where the star still shines in the lives of people giving the best gifts they have.
Individual Reflection: Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6
January 9th is the Baptism of the Lord. Prayerfully reflect on your baptism and its importance in your faith journey. Inquire if sponsors are needed for your parish RCIA program, so you might accompany someone on the journey to the Sacrament of Baptism
Family Reflection: Isaiah 60: 1-6
Epiphany is traditionally the day to bless our homes. Look on the internet for variations of Epiphany house blessings using chalk to mark the year 2017 at the front door.
Blogs to Visit:
http://marynow.wordpress.com/ As we reflect upon Mary’s presence in the mysteries of the Rosary, we are blessed to know her. For her journey, a timeless trek, calls us to surrender, continuing conversion, humbleness and justice now.
Weekly lectionary reflections, for faith sharing groups, parish bulletins, newsletters or personal prayer, from the synergy of the Word we hear and the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching.
Catholic Social Teaching offers seven principles for upholding life in our thoughts, decisions and actions.
How we do Catholic Social Teaching.
Creation sustainability ministry resources in the spirit of the St Francis Pledge.
Social Ministry Resources Engaging Parishes: Monthly and liturgical seasons resources for use with parish websites, bulletins and newsletters
List one or two upcoming events, legislative action alerts or social justice websites
By Barb Born December 26, 2016 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.