Pastor’s Message January 6th, 2019

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the true highlight of the Christmas season – sometimes referred to as the Feast of the Three Kings. On the east wall of the chapel of King’s College at Cambridge in England, behind the altar, hangs a great painting by Peter Paul Rubens. It is The Adoration of the Magi. Three travelers from the east have journeyed far to look for the “infant king of the Jews.” The Christmas story, as told by St. Matthew, leads us to this great feast that we celebrate today – the Epiphany — that is, the revealing of Christ to the rest of the peoples of the whole world.  
In this Gospel story, we meet the powerful political figure of King Herod. He displays all the force and fallibility of any human leader. Once in power, his main objective seems to be to stay in power. With such an outlook, any power that could be used to help humankind can easily become corrupted into a force for destroying humanity. Herod’s wrongdoings have certainly made him so self-obsessed that he even fears the birth of an unknown child as some kind of threat to his own throne.  
His advisors, the religious and political elite, gather to discuss the political situation. It’s not too much unlike the world order today. These people are experts on how to manage things, so as not to rock the boat. They seem to know what they are talking about. They know where the Messiah will be born. But they don’t seem to be very interested in when, as long as it does not upset their routines of control. These people enjoy their position and their power, but they are not interested in the wider world.  
The travelers, however, are very interested in the wider world. They are seekers after wisdom; they look for the meaning of things. They don’t settle down in the comfort of the here and now. Their life is a journey, and they seek answers to life’s great questions. When they find a “lowly cattle shed,” they fall on their knees in homage to a child. All their searching and all their studying has brought them to this place, and to this newborn king.   
Today’s feast invites us to join the Magi, and to become wise travelers as we wander our way through this world. There is a great temptation in our lives to become like Herod, ruling our lives according to our own desires. We even are tempted to become political and religious experts, like Herod’s advisors, viewing the world according to our own theories of what’s right and what’s wrong, and never getting beyond argument.  
Alternatively, we can go on the journey, like the Wise Men of old, and look for the child, and adore Him when we find Him. When we accept this challenge, then, for as long as we are on this earth, we are on the journey. There is always so much to discover. Even St. Peter, who spent many a day in the company of Jesus, was never finished with learning. On one famous occasion he said, “The truth I have now come to realize is that God does not have favorites, but that anybody who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”  
In a sermon for the Epiphany in 1839, another great follower of Jesus, Blessed John Henry Newman, (an English convert and cardinal) said, “When men understand what each other mean, they see, for the most part, that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless.” This is the challenge for us on today’s feast – that we go out and embrace the world.  
In his book, Open Mind, Faithful Heart: Reflections on Following Jesus, Pope Francis speaks about the Epiphany as both a historical event and a part of each of our lives. He says that we ourselves ought to become epiphanies — manifestations of Jesus in our daily lives. We are to manifest Jesus in our thoughts, words and actions. Pope Francis challenges us to share the joy of the Gospel with people we meet.  Maybe we can help a friend to find new meaning in life. Perhaps we may have a new desire to speak of our faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe we can even make ourselves more prepared to love in a difficult situation.  
The Epiphany message calls us to be more open to people who are fragile and vulnerable, weak and poor, and in this way share our hope and joy with others. It invites us to find a new path and a new route as we begin this new year. It invites us to come with real intent to Mass, where we can experience Jesus as the light for our hearts and the one who lifts the burdens of our sins from our shoulders. As we approach Christ in Holy Communion at every Mass, you and I can truly say that we who walked in darkness have seen a great light. May our Epiphany celebration fill us with an awareness of the grace and peace that comes to us from God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, especially when we come to church to worthily receive the Holy Eucharist. Have a blessed Little Christmas!
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Blessed chalk and incense packets are available at the manger scene near the altar today. When you arrive home, use the blessed chalk to inscribe the initials of the Three Kings over the doorways of your home in this manner: 20 + C + M + B + 19. The incense you may burn in a safe receptacle as you wish. The fragrance symbolizes the essence of God in your home.