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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

EPIPHANY OF THE LORD - JANUARY 3, 2021

Isaiah 60: 1-6; Psalm 72;
Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2: 1-12

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

THANK YOU! I appreciate the responses we received to our "End of the Year Appeal." The times are rough for so many, which makes us doubly grateful for your generosity. If there are those who would still like to contribute to this ministry of the Word and support of us Dominican preachers:

Send tax deductible checks (made out to "Dominican Friars") to:

Dominican Friars

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Or: For an online donation go to:
https://www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm

Thank you.


Click Here for a link to:  "First Impressions" for Mary, Mother of God

Friday, 01/01/21, Year B


I got my first wristwatch as a Christmas present. I was eleven and felt like an adult. I really felt "mature" when someone would ask for the time; a flick of the wrist and I gave it to them. But I was still a kid and what I really liked about the watch was that it glowed in the dark. When I would put the watch up to a lamp and then turn off the light, the face of the watch glowed for a few minutes. You could tell the time in the dark! How cool was that!

Eventually, whatever light the watch "captured" on its chemically-treated dial, faded. (We used to think the numerals and hands were painted in radium and that was why it glowed in the dark. I doubt the Atomic Energy Commission dispensed radium to children’s watch manufacturers to make glow-in-the-dark watches.) The watch required a direct light source in order for it to work its magic for me. After it faded in the dark the watch needed to be placed close to the light so that it would once again glow when the lights were turned off – for a while.

I am reminded of that watch as I hear the Isaiah reading today, the feast of the Epiphany. In our tradition the new liturgical year begins with Advent. But the celebration of the Epiphany antedates that of Christmas and for some Christian churches Epiphany begins the church year. Along with Christmas and next week’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Epiphany is a feast of God’s manifestation; God provides the light for people in the dark and those upon whom it shines "glow" when they receive it.

Today the magi, usually associated with wisdom, come close to the light, do homage and are illumined by what they see. Their lives are altered, or as Matthew puts it, "They departed for their country by another way." We can’t follow the same old ways once we have seen ourselves and the world by God’s light.

The Isaiah reading sounds as if people have just emerged from darkness. A light has been switched on for them – "Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines on you." It’s wake-up time for those who have lived in the gloom of the shadow of death. A call goes out to those laid low – "Rise up in splendor."

Jerusalem!"

What’s the reason for this call? Where did the light in the dark come from? Certainly not from the people’s ingenuity, or initiative. "It’s dark in here, let’s turn on the lights." No way! The darkness is profound, it is likened to the one that "covered the abyss" (Gen. 1:2) before the creation. Only God can create a light that can enter such darkness. The prophet reminds us that the darkness still lingers, "See, darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the peoples" But that’s not the end of it.

God will not let darkness reign supreme. "See...upon you the Lord shines." For believers there is light, for God is coming upon us to pierce the darkness of our sin and ignorance with a light to direct the steps of our long journey together. But with the gift comes responsibility. Others will walk by the light we have received. Like those watches, a light shines on us and we "glow" – then our responsibility is to reflect God’s light for others so they can tell what time it is in their darkness.

Isaiah is anticipating the restoration of Jerusalem – a deed that the Israelites could only accomplish with God’s help. And what a spectacle that will be! The crumbled city will "rise up" out of the darkness and others – the Gentiles – will see by this new light and be drawn to it. All the world will come to see that no one is an outsider to our God; no one people are better than any others. Someone has turned on a light and those who once dwelled in darkness can now see an open door.

They approach, enter and are welcomed by others upon whom the light has shone. That was the experience of the Magi: the "outsiders" saw a light that led them to an open door, "...on entering the house they saw the child with Mary, his mother. The prostrated themselves and did him homage."

[This is the season when I read T.S. Eliot’s poetic tale, "Journey of the Magi," which begins, "A cold coming we had of it." One of the Magi, the narrator, asks the question, "...were we led all that way for Birth or Death?" If you want to read it for yourself:

The year is very new and there still is much darkness on the horizon. We look at the days and months in front of us and wonder about how those suffering the results of the pandemic will fare. Will the vaccine do what we hope it will: end the spread of the virus? There is more darkness than that in our world: racism, economic disparity, terrorism in Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia, millions of refugees and migrants, etc. When will peace rule peoples’ hearts? Isaiah and the Magi remind us God will not abandon us, but will shine light on our dark winter days. Will all things get better immediately? Hardly! But the Magi represent those of us following the God-provided light. It shines on the "insiders" and the "outsiders." A way has been illumined, a path has been shown us and we must continue to live by the light we have seen.

We pray at this Eucharist, in person or online, for clear minds, courageous hearts and the perseverance to stay on the path Jesus has manifested to us: the way of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. If his is the path we follow, we too will shine in the darkness and be guides to others, to help them find their way home to a land and a people of light bearers.

The Magi did not unload their camels, dismiss their porters and settle down in Bethlehem to continue their homage to the Christ child. Matthew makes it sound as if they did homage to the child, quickly got up off their knees and then moved on. Maybe they went home to tell their families and friends about their journey and how the star guided them through the nights – you can’t see stars when there is plenty of light. Maybe we shouldn’t be terrified by the darkness in our world and our lives because, if God is true to form, a light will appear in the dark and keep us on track as we travel together.

These Christmas-time stories may be about angelic visitations, pregnancy and birth. But Matthew is also proposing the fuller gospel to us: the God of salvation is acting on our behalf and we are invited to respond with lives transformed by grace. Already there are hints of both acceptance and rejection of "the newborn king of the Jews." Epiphany is not the end of the story – it is just the beginning for us. What difference will what is manifested to us today make in our lives? Will we accept the one who not only lies in a manger as a newborn, but will also be rejected? Throughout this liturgical year we will hear Jesus’ preaching, observe his works, follow him to his death and then experience his resurrection. It will be a year of many epiphanies for us.

As we leave church and the crib scene today we have confidence that no darkness we face can put out the light that burns within us. Hear Isaiah’s promise, "Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow." Shall we resolve to continually turn toward the light we have seen, bow down to worship and then carry the light again into the world?

The Magi’s quest reminds us that throughout our lives we are continually searching for God. We can never settle back into a comfortable piety and complacency, even though we feel we have "found God." There is more up ahead – pack up and keep searching.

We need to also respect the journey of sincere others; even when their way differ from ours. The truth is too big for any of us to claim to have it all. God can not be grasped totally in my two hands, no matter how big they are. Let’s kneel and do homage today to the eternal and holy One who comes to us in the form of a child, but then grows into adulthood to invite us to follow the One we call, the Light of the World.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010321.cfm

Epiphany

On Epiphany day,

we are still the people walking.

We are still people in the dark,

and the darkness looms large around us,

beset as we are by fear,

anxiety,

brutality,

violence,

loss —

a dozen alienations that we cannot manage.

We are — we could be — people of your light.

So we pray for the light of your glorious presence

as we wait for your appearing;

we pray for the light of your wondrous grace

as we exhaust our coping capacity;

we pray for your gift of newness that

will override our weariness;

we pray that we may see and know and hear and trust

in your good rule.

That we may have energy, courage, and freedom to enact

your rule through the demands of this day.

We submit our day to you and to your rule, with deep joy and high hope.

---Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples"

Isaiah 60: 2

Have you ever found yourself in total darkness? I have found the feeling to be unsettling. Finding it hard to get my bearings, I frantically look for a glimmer of light. Surrounding the above passage of darkness, the prophet Isaiah envisages a wonderful transformation--Yahweh will give light to the city by means of the divine presence and the people will all be just. On this day, we mark the Epiphany of the Lord, "shining forth, bringing light, a manifestation" out of darkness.

The year 2020 had a great darkness covering the earth in the pandemic that continues into the new year but with hope now that there is a vaccine on the horizon--a medical light. The American society is rent with the darkness of racism but with hope that more people will be willing to address unjust issues because they see them more clearly now--a societal light.

On a personal level, we each must find our way out of darkness into the light of Christ. Pope Francis, in a recent homily (11/22/20) states, "It is true that there are obstacles that can make our choices difficult: fear, insecurity, so many unanswered questions… Love, however, demands that we move beyond these, and not keep wondering why life is the way it is, and expecting answers to fall down from heaven. The answer has come: it is the gaze of the Father who loves us and who has sent us His Son. No, love pushes us to go beyond the why, and instead to ask for whom, to pass from asking, "Why am I alive?" to "For whom am I living?" From "Why is this happening to me?" to "Whom can I help?" For whom? Not just for myself! Life is already full of choices we make for ourselves: what to study, which friends to have, what home to buy, what interests or hobbies to pursue. We can waste years thinking about ourselves, without ever actually starting to love."--Love is the light.

Returning to the topic of racism, the USCCB has issued a pastoral letter against racism titled, "Open Wide Our Hearts: the Enduring Call to Love." You are invited to participate in a 4-part virtual series to study racism using this pastoral letter on Thursdays--Jan. 21, 28, Feb. 4, 11; time: 7-8 PM. RSVP to socialconcern@hnojnc.org.

Let us be an epiphany people this year.

-----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,

Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral

Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

They [the Magi] were overjoyed at seeing the star,

and on entering the house

they saw the child with Mary his mother.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage.

Reflection:

Foreigners were led to the Christ child’s home do him homage. National boundaries and differences dissolve when we respond to God’s invitation to come to Christ. We are always welcome into God’s presence and in gratitude our commitment is to Christian hospitality throughout this year – to welcome visitors as we would welcome Christ.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How do I practice hospitality?
  • Have I ever been treated as an outsider?
  • Do I treat any people or groups as outsiders?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. Conditions, even without the pandemic, are awful in our prisons. Imagine what it is like now with the virus spreading through the close and unhealthy prison settings. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • James Thomas #0404386 (On death row since 2/23/95)
  • Tony Sidden #0368820 (3/15/95)
  • Charles Bond #0036850 (3/24/95)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars.

Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: https://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Domincales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.org - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626


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