Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-17 Acts 10: 34-38 Matthew 3: 13-17
As a Church, we officially close our celebration of the Christmas Season, when were called that God came into our world in the person of Jesus Christ, by hearing an account of what took place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the life of the Church, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the culmination of what Christmas celebrates because it is the initiation of Jesus’ public work to reveal God to the world.
In reality, Christmas and its surrounding events is a preparation for this liturgical feast. In the story of Christmas, the Lord is revealed in different ways. He is proclaimed by angels. He is seen by the faithful poor of Israel, represented by the shepherds. He is revealed to the Gentiles, the non-Jews, in the person of the Magi. The Baptism of the Lord, as Jesus stands before John to be baptized and as he is called “the Beloved Son” by his Heavenly Father, is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus to the world. It is the beginning too of a new adventure in the history of the world. Now all the world is to know that he is the Chosen One, the beloved one of the Father who has come into our world to renew it.
What is the ministry of Jesus, then, to be? He is to reveal the Father’s love and to lead us to the Father. In addition, he is calling on us to join in his work, to be part of his ministry. As we listened to the words of Isaiah today, we can easily apply them to Jesus. But what is described, the servant, is also to be us. Jesus began his public work and teaching to lead us to be servants with him.
Each of us has been chosen by God. We are beloved sons and daughters of God. Each of us is called to establish the justice that is light to the blind. Each of us is called to free prisoners from the darkness of mind and heart. Each of us is to do this as the servants are described: not shouting out, but in the quiet of our daily lives.
The Baptism of the Lord is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus but it is also a call to us to renew our ministry as part of the Body of Christ. Where is his ministry revealed today, but in us? Where is the servant found who brings forth justice, the saving, loving will of the Father, but in us?
How is this be carried out? Not by shouting and display, but in the manner in which we live day to day. It is to be found in our prayer, in our example, in our words, in our actions. All of these are to make known, to reveal and reflect the Lord.
All of the celebrations of the Christmas Season are directed at showing forth the Lord. What point would there be to these celebrations if this central message is not conveyed? All of us have been given the task of carrying on the mission of Christ that was begun at his baptism and is to be continued through our own baptisms. All of us are called upon to reflect in our lives a living faith and trust in our good and gracious God,
Isaiah 60: 1-6 Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6 Matthew 2: 1-12
Another name which might be given to this Feast of the Epiphany, or Feast of the Three Kings, or Feast of the Magi, is the “Feast of Inclusion.” “Drawing in” or “Including” is a clear lesson that is conveyed by what we, as Church, recall today. It is a lesson that there are no restrictions or limits or borders to the extent of God’s love for humanity demonstrated by the birth of the God-made-man, Jesus Christ.
Consider what we have heard from Isaiah as he spoke to the Chosen People of old. They had suffered exile from their homeland, the Promised Land. In exile they had experienced and influenced other peoples, so that the return from exile would affect not only the Chosen People but also a large part of the whole world. From near and far people were going to participate in this new era, this new beginning that would take place.
Then we heard that Saint Paul, who had been a Pharisee, a strict observer of the Law, was not just ‘including the Gentiles, the non Jews, the foreigner sas recipients of his preaching and of baptism, he was actively going out to bring them in, to include them.. Paul declares that the Gentiles are co-heirs with the Jews. This was an opinion that clearly was not held by all the Apostles at the beginning. Thus there was a struggle between Peter and Paul until the Apostles realized that this God’s intentions were for all the world to be included.
It is then from Matthew, who addressed his account of the Gospel primarily to persons of Jewish origin and tradition, that the story of the Kings or Magi is heard. It is Matthew who emphasizes that from all over the world people would come to see what had happened. They were not only to see, they were to be affected. Having seen the newborn King, the Magi changed direction and return by another way. The Lord had come into the world, God was in our midst. All the world would come to see him. All the world is to be changed, transformed..
The Feast of the Epiphany not only recalls that the Lord was revealed to the world in history, but it also reminds us and urges us to show him forth, to reveal him, to the world now. The light of the Lord which lit up the darkness then is to shine brightly now in us as we lead others, by our lives, to that light.
In coming into our world in Jesus Christ, the Lord God called all of us, included all of us, in Divine Love. It is for us truly to reveal the Lord to all we meet, to live lives that do not
Sirach 3:2-16, 12-14 Colossians 3: 12-17 Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23
A family I know has developed a tradition over the last years of going as a group, a couple of weeks before Christmas, to a Christmas tree farm. There they select and cut down trees for their respective homes. This year, a grandson in the group, picked a tree that was not attractive. Some might call it ugly. It appeared to have two trunks. He chose that tree to take to his family home because his father, who was not with the group that day, had once said that “Every tree has a home.” Hearing about this suggested reflections to me for this Feast of the Holy Family.
In many respects, families are different now than they are often remembered to be. Very little about family life can be taken for granted. Mobility has allowed families to be separated by miles and even states. Multiple marriages have led to a variety of roles and even a confusion of roles within a family. Single-parent families are far more frequent than many of us might remember. Illnesses, dependencies, and the demands made by employment and support offer challenges to the manner in which family life can be lived. The images often portrayed in the media or reported in the news can further add to the confusion. All of this can be lamented and bemoaned.
If we give it some thought, however, we realize that the Holy Family we recall today was certainly not picture-perfect. There was a pregnancy outside of marriage that posed a dilemma which made divorce a possibility. Foster parenting was a reality of this family. Then, they were refugees when the child was an infant followed by a long trek to their home. And when the son who had been born was an adolescent, he caused his parents anxiety.
Whether in contemporary society or in the Holy Family described to us in the Scriptures, things were not perfect, like that tree that appeared to have two trunks. It is not the appearance that is significant, however, but the environment, the setting, the “home” that can give beauty. No matter the circumstances, it is the family unit in whatever form that is the first place where one learns to live this gift of life. It is in the family unit that one is able to learn and experience love and care and respect.
With these thoughts in mind we can recall what our loving God said to us through inspired writers. In the wisdom of Sirach we have an ideal presented to us. The honor and respect that is to be shown to a parent can be expanded to include love and respect shown to all persons who are a part of our lives. Through Saint Paul we are reminded that no matter the circumstances of our natural family, we are also a part of a much greater family and are united to one another through a common bond with God our Father. We are to reflect that union by living as persons of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and most especially, love.
However family life might be experienced by any one of us, whether that be in our memories or in an ideal image portrayed for us in the Holy Family, there is a home for that misshapen tree which each one of us is. It is the home we share. It is the home that is found in the faith and trust we have in union with our good and gracious God.
Isaiah 7: 10-14 Romans 1: 1-7 Matthew 1: 18-24
As we move ever closer to the celebration of Christmas day, we are presented at this Eucharist with a significant but silent person who is an important part of the Christmas account that tells of God entering our world in the person of Jesus Christ. Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, has found himself in a very human situation and is confronted with a very serious dilemma.
A reflection of what is reported to us by Saint Matthew allows us to arrive at some insights. Joseph is aware of Mary’s own spiritual experience and what, in some fashion, she had come to know about her pregnancy. Joseph is aware of the teaching and expectations of his own religious tradition of the relationship between God and the Chosen People and the manner in which God had been understood as part of history of Jews. Joseph is fundamentally a man of faith, a just man, a righteous man, who knew the law and practice of his people. Joseph was genuinely troubled about circumstances which had arisen. He had a love and commitment to Mary. She was now pregnant so he weighs the consequences which have arisen, trying to resolve for himself this dilemma he faced.
What we can also recognize and appreciate is that Saint Matthew is not simply repeating some sort of pious story or legend. Rather, he is providing a sound lesson to us about the response that is given by a person of faith to a serious challenge that is faced in life.
In the earlier account we heard about Ahaz in the story from Isaiah, Ahaz faced the dilemma presented by an attack from his enemies. Isaiah tells him that he can be assured of God’s presence with him in this situation by the sign being offered: the conception of a son. But he was not willing to place firm faith or trust in God. On thr other hand, Joseph reflects the thoughts we heard today from Saint Paul. Paul acknowledges that all of the experiences in his life, coupled with his faith and trust in God made sense. God’s actions, his own faith and the response of those to whom he preached about the mystery and the realty of Jesus Christ revealed to him the depth and meaning of God’s loving plan for mankind. This, too, was the conclusion of Joseph as he accepted what was being asked of him.
God is with us, God will save us. This is the central truth that we recall in the example of firm faith and trust in this truth that is presented to us today. When we choose to be affected by this truth, to be affected by the depth and meaning of the Christmas event, God becoming man in Jesus Christ, we then give evidence of a willingness to follow the example given By Joseph. We then allow all aspects of our lives both those that are fortunate and those that are puzzling or challenging to reveal and reflect our own faith a trust in our good and gracious God.
Thursdays, Dec. 26: 5-5:30 PM
Saturdays, Dec. 28: 3:00-4:00 PM
December 24: 4:30 PM & 10:00 PM
December 25: 8:30 AM & 11:00 AM
Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God:
December 31: 4:30 PM
January 1: 8:30 AM & 11:00 AM