Pastor’s Perspective – january 8, 2023

Feast of the Epiphany

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Traditionally, on the “twelfth day of Christmas,” January 6, the Church moved the feast to the nearest Sunday so that the largest number of Mass-going Catholics would reflect on the readings and celebrate this feast.

Although we now tie this name “Epiphany” to the day when we proclaim the Gospel story of the magi, in the longer tradition of the Church it refers to all the many signs or “manifestations” (the meaning of epiphany—“to shine out, appear, or reveal”) of Jesus as the human-divine Son of God. Traditionally, the birth, the story of the magi, the story of his presentation in the temple, the story of his being lost and then found in the temple, and especially the experience of his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptizer, and his first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana were all aspects of the season of Epiphany. In fact, in many places the season of Christmas-Epiphany would extend 40 days, from the birthday celebration of December 25th to February 2nd (the length of time when mothers of sons were considered purified and an offering for the birth presented at the Temple). During that time all the “epiphanies” mentioned above would be celebrated. All these celebrations show forth or manifest something of Jesus’ divinity in human form. In other words, the focus is still Christmas—the union of the divine, eternal Word to limited, mortal human nature.

The particular story of the magi focuses on the fact that the salvation this Word made flesh, this Emmanuel (“God with us”), brings is not limited to the chosen few, but is for all who seek such salvation. Jesus is, as Matthew’s Gospel makes clear, the fulfillment of the promise that from the people of Israel there would come a “light to the nations.”  There are some interesting elements to the story of the magi, which we often overlook, given our inherited images of “three kings” and Luke’s focus on shepherds and a manger. Matthew’s story of the magi makes no mention of numbers. A group of seekers of truth search the skies for signs, and in what they see as a new star they discern an announcement of the birth of a king. They leave their homeland to travel, perhaps for a year or more, strictly on faith in that divine sign, to seek the one to whom it pointed. Read the story carefully. It implies that they see the star at its rising and so head off, but not that the star is visible to them during their whole journey. They are making that journey on faith. That is why the magi rejoice when they see the reappearance of the same star after their conversation with Herod. It confirms for them the truth of their quest and the place to which they are to go.

Our lives can be seen as on a similar journey, a quest to find meaning and to live meaningful lives. We, too, are asked to be attentive to the signs of the times and not be afraid to seek the One who we know, deep in our hearts is the answer to all questions. It is a journey, a quest, and therefore filled with tremendous difficulties and challenges, successes and disappointments. At times, on that journey the direction will be clear, we will see the “star,” but often we need to trust earlier decisions and continue in the same direction of life, focused on seeing and finding Christ in all things. When we do, we offer all the treasures of our hearts to him.

*Epiphany Blessing of the Home/52 Sundays Resource

This year the Archdiocese has decided to put the 52 Sundays resource book online and available for free to all. Put together by the Archdiocese of Detroit, it provides a way for families to be more intentional about Sunday as the Lord’s Day, carving out time together, and deliberately trying to structure Sundays as a day of renewal. Each Sunday has the readings for that Sunday, with reflection questions the whole family can share; some fun activity to do as a family; a family prayer and some notes on the liturgy and upcoming saints of the week; a weekly family challenge and even a new recipe that ties into the season. I will place a link to it on our website News under “Other Links” (www.52Sundays.com). For example, for today’s Epiphany Sunday the suggested family fun activity is the yearly blessing of the home by marking our doorways in chalk. The suggested family challenge is to think of someone who may be going through a difficult time. Present a small gift from your family to let them know you care. Gift ideas could include hand-made cards, fresh-baked cookies, or whatever your family thinks is appropriate. The suggested recipe is called Galette des Rois (French Epiphany King Cake).

Parents: you are now in a world where you need to be intentional about the faith formation of your children. It is not enough to send them to a Catholic school or to Religious Education. So many of us have relied on our own parents and grandparents to set the tone of faith for the whole family. If we have not embraced that faith as a lived reality, the Catholic faith quickly becomes minimal, and our children will not pass it on to future generations. Intentionally and consistently making Sunday a faith day, centered on Eucharist and on family, can make a huge difference.

Fr. Buersmeyer

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