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Friday, 4 January 2019

The Epiphany 2019

The Epiphany  (2019)
(Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12)

Why do we love certain people more than others … because of their goodness, perhaps, or their beauty; or might it be due to their understanding, sympathy, wisdom, or courage?  We could go on trying to find reasons but to no purpose, for the point is that we love someone because of who they are, because of their unique personality, as known to us and experienced by us.  We cannot love someone unknown to us.  Although we can admire what we hear of another, nevertheless, such admiration through hearsay or ‘work experience’ can only become true love after we have met, personally encountered, and, in some measure, learned to personally appreciate, the other.

Since that is undoubtedly true, don't you think it strange that Christians and Catholics speak so little about the beauty, goodness, wisdom and love, of God?  Christian proclamation is so often about an impersonal ethic: doing good to the needy and underprivileged, loving one’s neighbour and especially children, social involvement, and international comments from relatively minor figures – often sounding quite facile -- in favour of peace.   Indeed, at times, you cannot tell who is speaking: a social worker or a Christian, a political activist, or a witness defending or expounding their faith.   There is too often very little witnessing to the full pleroma of Christian, and above all Catholic, Faith as a spiritual power capable of bestowing on believers not merely present purpose, patience, and commitment, as a prelude to eternal salvation, but also as a unique source of hope for the unity, peace, and fulfilment of mankind … ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive others’ ...  and as a uniquely personal experience bestowing a secret joy and profound peace in anticipation of and prelude to our sharing in Jesus’ Own experiencing of Divine Beatitude.

The heavenly reward to which we all aspire as disciples of Jesus will not be given us because we have answered the world’s ‘politically correct’ expectations or requirements of us, nor because we have kept Church and/or even Divine  rules: the only criterion for the Christian and Catholic appreciation of our whole life will be "Did you love the Lord your God sincerely, in your mind and heart and with soulful truth and commitment?"   Without such personal love for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our Christian life can only be bleak and formal, our Catholic witness to God only lifeless and uninspiring; all in stark contrast to those words of the prophet Isaiah we heard in the first reading:

Arise, shine; for your light has come!  And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. 

Christians -- above all we who are privileged to be Catholics -- should indeed shine out because we are called to reflect and make known the glory of the Lord which has shone upon us through our faith in the Good News of Jesus.  We are not like our brothers, the Jews and the Muslims.  They speak of God: they can speak good, holy, and beautiful things about God; indeed, the Jews speak of Him in ways very close to our own hearts.   Nevertheless, the Christian faith is so much more glorious than either Judaism or Islam: for we speak not only of the glory of God, but of the supreme and unimaginable beauty and beatitude of the Father, with His Son and the Holy Spirit.  We do not simply know God because He has spoken inspiring words through His prophets; nor do we praise Him simply because He has done great and wonderful deeds; above all, we confess, love and worship God, as Father, Son and Spirit: the Father Who created us and Who is really and truly our own Father in Jesus; the Son Who took our flesh and became our Brother before showing Himself to be our Saviour, and Who, to this very day, continues to give Himself as flesh and blood for you and me to eat and drink, thereby enabling us to live with His life, by His Spirit; and the Holy Spirit Whom we love and praise, in Whom we trust and rejoice, since He is ever with us as our Advocate, our strength and support, our light and our guide, our sure hope and our deep, deep, joy.

People of God, today's great solemnity of the Epiphany, the shining forth of God's glory, invites us most compellingly to glory in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, by telling us, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, to:

Lift up your eyes all round (that is, appreciate the Faith you profess and the Church in which you live); then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy.

Jesus came to teach each of us to recognize with Him, and in Him to appreciate, the Father as a Person: His Father, and now, in Him, our Father; and He has given us His own most Holy Spirit, to inflame our hearts, enlighten our minds, and give us strength: that His, Jesus’ Own, filial likeness may be formed in us for the glory of the Father:

When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; He will tell you things to come. 

The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses; for we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.        (John. 16:13; Romans 8:26)

The Father Himself is so Personally committed to us that, having given His only Son for us, He now wants to speak to each of us personally, by His Spirit, that we might turn to Jesus and find our salvation in Him:

No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  (John 6:44)

The Father looks for, and expects in return, a similarly personal and whole-hearted response and commitment from us.  Jesus assures us that the Father wants to be our most perfect Father (Matthew 10:20):

It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father Who speaks in you.

And, as the only true Father, He wants to be recognized and loved by children who will confidently turn to Him, in Jesus, saying: "Abba, Father"

Our Lord Jesus is indeed the Messiah foretold by the prophets; proclaimed by angels and manifested by a star at His birth; revealed by the Father at His baptism in the Jordan; He is, indeed, the Messiah come to change the water of our lives into finest wine.  And this wonderful Jesus personally died on Calvary for our sins, yours and mine; He rose on the third day for our salvation; and is so close to us, that we now live in Him by His Spirit bestowed on each of us by Mother Church at our baptism, and continually renewed in us by our faithful living in her, above all by our reception of the Eucharist at Holy Mass.

And then, this Holy Spirit -- relating to each and every one of us individually – works His divine purposes in the secret depths of our minds and hearts to the extent that we are attuned to His presence and willing to respond to His inspirations.  Indeed, He is so personal to us that it is His task to lead each of us to our own individual and personal fulfilment and perfection in Jesus, for the Father.

People of God, Christians and even Catholics today are often afraid of the wonders of our faith.  Many, each according to their own make-up, want to imagine what they can easily accept or appreciate: some, a distant God Who demands, not personal communion in love, but the observance of laws, such as Sunday Mass, baptism, first Communion etc.; they want to be able to tick-off the laws they have complied with, or tot-up the accepted good deeds they have done; and this, because they cannot bear to feel unsure of themselves, because they are afraid to trust totally in God’s mercy and goodness;  others like to fancy a God Who is so like us as to be satisfied with actions serving no higher aims than the largely humanistic ideals of those who have rejected faith in God and now rejoice in the world: ‘doing good’ to others that they may feel and show themselves able to ‘do good’ without any dependence on a God of heavenly Being and authority on earth.

Jesus, however, came to lift His disciples up to heavenly glory: drawing them to Himself and leading them -- through selfless trust and loving commitment – out from their human nothingness and need as experienced by Himself on Calvary, to share with Him in the glory of divine charity where Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally and indivisibly One.  For we belong to Jesus -- as St. Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 3:21-4:1) -- just as Jesus belongs to God; our relationship with God is that personal:

All things are yours, whether (the Church), the world or life or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

There, in the Son and by the Holy Spirit, and being caught up into the mystery of  Divine Charity uniting and beatifying the Most Holy Trinity, you and I are called to join in the songs of myriads of angel choirs, and to participate with our whole being in the great and eternal  ecstasy of heavenly praise to the glory of Him Who is, as St. Paul (Ephesians 4:6) tells us, the:

             One God and Father of all, Who is over all, through all, and in all.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us on this most solemn feast of the Epiphany 2019 renew our ability to whole-heartedly rejoice in God and, with quiet sincerity and deep confidence, to stand ever more firm and sure on the rock and foundation of our God-given Catholic and Christian Faith.