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Contents: Volume 2:

Epiphany and Baptism of our Lord
- January 8, 2023

 

Epiphany

&

Baptism

of our Lord

 

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP (Epiphany)

2. -- Dennis Keller (Epiphany)

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP (Epiphany)

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ (Baptism of our Lord)

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Epiphany 2023

Yes, the wise still seek Jesus. In today's time, we come from all different parts of the world. We use all different kinds of methods, some individually and some in community.

In reading today's Scripture selections, it occurred to me that whether it was the writer of Isaiah, St. Paul, or the magi, there was great value placed on discernment of the revelation or dream that gave direction to people's efforts and life. How do we do the same? How do we know whether what we think or do will lead us to Jesus?

I think that is one of the great mysteries of life! We can, however, reduce the randomness of this unknown by connecting and indeed collaborating with the ways and the people who have already shown by their lives that they have at least found Jesus in their hearts. There are many people in our lives who follow what Jesus taught, not rigidly but with careful prayer. We also have "institutions" and people affiliated with them to help us discern the nuances of what Jesus taught and how that makes a difference in how we might live to mirror Jesus more authentically.

It is the new year and time for resolutions. Most of the time, resolutions fade pretty quickly but somehow, maybe it is the terminology, goals do not do so quite that easily. If we take some time, perhaps we can find a person or group or a printed or media source that we can journey with to become closer to Jesus. A goal to select one can be followed by a goal to connect there at a frequency that can be modified as we journey through 2023.

May we bring the gifts we have to this effort as the magi brought their gifts to Jesus. May we , too, recognize the Gift we have been given in Jesus. May we continue to have our encounters with Jesus and people who truly know Jesus lead us "by another way" to the kind of lives that truly reflect Jesus present in today's world. Let us give find the time to give homage to Jesus, the Light of the World. Let us pray that we can follow the Light of Jesus and ourselves bring light into a world that can seem so dark and dismal at times.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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The Epiphany of the Lord January 8, 2023

Isaiah 60:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3 & 5-6; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 2:2; Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany is God making God present to humanity/creation. Often on this feast being present focuses on the Gentiles. That seems short sighted and a little triumphalistic. The coming of the Magi carrying symbolic gifts is an action of Gentile wise persons and Gentile priests. So there is a clear reference to Gentiles. But it doesn’t exclude the chosen people. There are actually three groups of persons in this narrative of the Magi.

The first, of course, is the vicious King Herod. His practice of kingship is a bastardization of the ancient understanding of kingship. The gold standard for honorable kings is/was that the king or queen was the shepherd of the flock. That flock is the people and resources of the region. As shepherd, the political leader was expected to work incessantly for good, the common good of the people. Herod historically did a lot of great works, including building the Temple standing at the time of Jesus. His sin was that he sought to hold onto power by murder, including his own sons. As he began dying, he ordered a large number of Jewish men arrested. At his death they were to be slaughtered. In that way there would be mourning in the land as if for his death. He wanted to eliminate the newborn Jesus from being future competition. It certainly is according to Herod’s character that he sought to kill that infant – and any other infants born around the same time. It would serve us well to understand that cut-throat, murderous competition is repugnant to those who would follow the Christ. Such competition murders many innocents.

The second group of persons are the priests and scribes of the people. They as well are to be in service to the people. They know the scriptures and its prophecies, especially of Malachi. When Herod asks for input about where the successor to David was to be born, they came up with Bethlehem. They told Herod and then went back to their ordinary way of living. They continued with their ritualism and laying burdens on the people. It would serve us well to understand with the Church teaches. But the religious leaders, teachers, leaders, and sacramental providers ought never lose their awareness of the needs of the people they serve. As Francis, our Pope puts it, they ought to have the smell of the sheep on their persons.

The third group are the Magi. They come to honor and adore this newborn who will become THE successor to the throne of David. They come with their symbolic gifts to acknowledge the Gentiles awareness of the need for the role Jesus. It was a time of great expectation. Not only the Jews but it seems the entire world felt the air of expectation that something outstanding was about to happen. The gifts of the Magi are symbolic. Gold, of course, symbolizes kingship. Let’s make that really the understanding of what kingship is – Jesus would be the Great Shepherd, guiding, leading, healing, defining a path for living. The Magi would have understood the nature of kingship. This understanding should impact our voting choices and political, economic, and social decisions. Frankincense is a symbol for priesthood. Priesthood’s function opens the way to God for humanity. The gift of myrrh would have cut Mary and Joseph to the heart. Myrrh is the spice used to embalm the dead. So, not only is this infant destined to be King/Shepherd and Priest, but also in his life, death would be a central, defining event.

The Magi were, according to ancient historians, a clan in the Persian region. At some point in their history, that clan attempted to overthrow the ruling class and failed. Instead of pursuing power through violence and intrigue, this clan turned to research, study, teaching. During this period of time, there was universally an expectation that something was about to happen. This clan of those seeking wisdom and practical but fulfilling life would have shared in that expectation. A star signaled to this clan of the arrival of the anticipated person whose life would change everything.

There are many theories about the star, all of which seem to have some logical basis. Part of the belief of this clan was that stars were predictive of life, including individual life.

The joy and exuberance of this feast day can be fueled by the realization we have a future. Our future is wholeness, a completeness of the gift of uniqueness-of-person God gifted us. We need not be slaves to anything, to anyone. We are citizens, ah, NO, not citizens only. We are adopted children returning to the source of our personhood.

The first reading this Sunday from the third segment of Isaiah shouts that exuberance. This prophecy followed the release of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon. Freedom, freedom! How very often we hear that story repeated in the Hebrew Scriptures. The psalms shout it; we sing of freedom in Responsorial Psalms. Freedom to grow, to learn, to realize the potential that come to us because of our birth. In all this, the freer we are of what enslaves us, the more we can grow into the Community that is eternal life, into the Trinity.

Our enemy is the way of the world fueled by rugged individualism, by ego-centric thinking. The way of the world denies others’ worth by theft of their dignity and worth that is infused into each person by the Father. Poverty, manipulation, abuse, theft of livelihood, murder of bodies, slaughter of spirit – these are the chains of Pharoah, of Babylon, of Assyria. The seduction of the way of the world is revealed to us in the temptations of Jesus following his baptism by John in the Jordan.

In the gospel of Matthew we there is a proclamation of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus hears from the heavens the confirmation of his ministry. The first reading for the Baptism of the Lord is again from Isaiah. This time it is from the second segment of that prophet. This is the time when the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. It is a promise of the Suffering Servant sent by God (Yahweh – "I am who am with you"). That Servant through his suffering would bring freedom that opens eyes of the blind, returns mobility to the lame, and releases prisoners from the heavy darkness of dungeons holding them captive. The Baptism of the Lord brings life to the refrain of our Responsorial Psalm for the Baptism of Jesus. The refrain is: "The Lord will bless his people with peace." May this be so and remain in our consciousness as we enter the Ordinary Time of our Liturgical year.

Dennis Keller with Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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3.

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GIFT-GIVING, AND THE EPIPHANY

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

At Christmas time we give presents to particular people. People give gifts to us. What's it all about? It all goes back to the story of the three wise men going to Bethlehem, falling on their knees, and offering the best gifts they could afford to the Baby King of the World.

Our gift-giving may sometimes be aimed more at keeping on-side and staying at peace than anything else. Our gift-giving may at times be part of the commercialization of Christmas instead of expressions of unconditional love. In contrast, the wise men are completely single-minded and sincere in their gift-giving. Their gifts are expressions of their respect, reverence, gratitude, and love for the child. Their gifts are given with no strings attached, no conditions, and no mixed motives.

The flaws in our gift-giving may make us feel that the whole business of exchanging Christmas gifts should be gradually abolished and that the commercialization of Christmas should be restrained and restricted. If and when we think such thoughts, it may help to remember that the commercialization of Christmas is somewhat necessary. Were it a completely spiritual celebration, hundreds of small businesses would go to the wall. Thousands of factory workers making bonbons, trees, chocolates, decorations, cards, and toys, would find themselves unemployed.

It may also be helpful to remember that if people did not spend money on gifts for family and friends at Christmas, their consciences would not be roused to make donations to the poor and needy at this time of giving and sharing. (Many charities experience a boost at Christmas time).

Despite the limits and flaws in our gift-giving, it is important both to keep the practice alive and to purify it of its worst excesses. It's particularly important to the lives of children. The good news is that while they are attracted to receiving e.g., a gift of shiny new roller blades, they are also attracted to the Crib and the story of the baby lying there in the manger. Their hearts are touched by the plight of his parents who are so poor that they can offer him nothing but their protection and affection. Children very easily get the message that this is a story of love. They appreciate the humanity of the Holy Family, their struggles and their sacrifices, to bring to the human race the Light of the Nations.

The story of the visit to the Crib by the Wise Men is a story of giving and receiving. But it is not simply about the giving of things - in this case, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It speaks of how gifts express love between persons, and how gifts given with love bind people together.

In celebrating Epiphany, we are celebrating the greatest manifestation and gift that there has ever been, that of God's love for us. For it was out of love, that God the Father gave us the Son, and gave him to be our Light, our Saviour, our King, and our Joy.

Jesus, then, is the celebrity we are celebrating at this time. He is the reason for the season, the Twelve Days of Christmas, that began on Christmas Eve. So, as a beautiful carol puts it: ‘JOY, JOY, FOR CHRIST IS BORN, THE BABE, THE SON OF MARY!’

As our Eucharist continues then, I suggest that we make a special point of giving thanks for the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives. May we acknowledge with sincerity that he is the most precious gift we have ever received! May we also in return renew the gift of our whole selves and our whole lives to God!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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4.

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Year A: Baptism of our Lord (Sunday after Epiphany).

‘This is my Son, the beloved; my favor rests on him.’

Have you ever wanted to be loved?

I think most people have.

  • -To feel that someone thinks more of you than you do of yourself.
  • – Would, if not die in a ditch for you, at least cross the road to save you.
  • – would still shake your hand when the world finds you untouchable.
  • – would still give you a roof over your head when the world has made you homeless.

Human loves are seldom eternal, but just sometimes they can be.

One of my brothers in the Lord is adopted. He was adopted at the age of six, having spent his previous life in children’s homes. And he remembers – or at least he thinks he remembers – which is all most of us can do from that age, what it was like to be among friends; to be among people who cared and did their best. To be liked, even, smiled upon and praised. But not loved.

And so, when his adoptive parents came for him, he says he took a long time to get used to it, to the strangeness, at times the uncomfortableness, the proximity to people who cared as deeply for him as he did for himself and gradually discover within himself some sense of caring for other people as great as that for himself. He says the nearest description he can give of that time was when he went to live for some years in Italy and had to learn a whole new way of living; not just the language and culture; not just a different way of holding a knife and fork; not just the discovery that there a faithful religious life required a man to get up at five o’clock twice a day; it was a whole new realm of what it is to be a human being. And so, he says, he can never read this passage without weeping: "This is my Son, the beloved; my favour rests on him." partly because he knows what that feels like; partly because he knows what the absence of that feels like.

But then, he says, his adoptive parents came to die. First, fifteen years ago, his father. And then just a few months ago, his mother. He tells me that he was terrified of their dying – not just that they themselves would be gone; nor even that he himself would miss them. He would not deny them their reward just for that. But his fear was for himself, would he, when they who had shown him so much love and so much about how to love were gone, would he turn back into the person that he had been, lose his touch, lose his heart, lose what he now thought of as his humanity as much as his faith? And so, he was immensely relieved when, after his mother died and he could begin to get through entire days without crying, he discovered that the love that she had built within him had outlived her; its gift had endured and could even be given again.

Since then he has met many people who have been adopted. He says that, in private conversation, nearly all of them admit to that sense of emptiness and loss, of having known the absence of love and of having had slowly, painfully, awkwardly and with difficulty and often incompletely to learn that most basic skill of all humanity, that of how to be loved and then how to love another. For Christians, that gift is consecrated in our baptism - the moment when we know for once and for all that we have a place in the world, a place founded everlastingly in the eternal city of the hearts of those who love us. We are not parentless children, who come from nothing and go to nothing, who have no loyalty but their own self-interest. No, rather we are children of God, we are family, we are community, we are church, we are God’s baptised Children in the world. In that dignity, let us stand and profess our Faith.

Paul O'Reilly SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

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5.

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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