Bishop Herbert Bevard of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands has come to speak to us at all Masses this weekend as he makes his annual appeal for his mission diocese. Though people may think of that locale as “paradise,” the hidden reality of the situation “behind the glamorous scenes” paints a very different picture for the Church there. The 2nd collection for his appeal will take place next weekend.
This Monday, Christmas Season ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. But today, we will still continue our celebration of Christmas with the Solemn Feast of the Epiphany, also known in some places as the “Feast of the 3 Kings” or “Little Christmas.” Originally, this feast had been observed as the high point of the entire Christmas season. It is a rather complex celebration because of the many different themes that arise out of its many significances. Now overshadowed by the Nativity of the Lord in December, with its crass commercialization of what is supposed to be the meaning of this entire season – the birth of the Savior of the world, the Epiphany was held in highest esteem. Even the name of the feast speaks to us in quite deep theological terms. Once observed almost exclusively on January 6th, it has been transferred in much of the western Church to the first Sunday of the new calendar year after New Year’s Day, in order to have everyone celebrate its solemnity.
The word epiphany comes from the Greek, and simply means to show, or to make known or to reveal (the coming of Our Lord now revealed to the rest of the world beyond Bethlehem). Our Christian Faith is a revealed religion. It’s not something that we human beings have arrived at through our own efforts, or our own intellectual analysis. It’s been given to us – shown to us, made known to us – by God. It’s a gift; and the proper response to any gift is to receive the gift – not to change the gift, not to play with it, not to make it better from our own point of view – but just to receive. We have been given the gift of our Christian Faith, which is, at its heart, the self-revelation of God.
As is our parish custom, you may come to the manger scene in church after Mass and take home a packet of blessed chalk and incense. The chalk is used to invoke the protection of the Three Kings by inscribing over your doorposts their initials and the numbers of the New Year in this fashion: 20 + C + M + B + 17 (some use the letter ‘K’ instead of ‘C’). Tradition gives the names Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, but this is only tradition. The 3 different gifts they presented were the reason tradition said there were three. There may have been more, but the Scriptures, nonetheless, are fulfilled. For us, they signify the Gold of Love, the Frankincense of Faith and the Myrrh of Mercy.
We continue the ministry of the Magi, to make known the Good News of Jesus Christ for the next generation – for those who do not yet know the Lord. Like the Magi of old, it’s important for us also to be searchers for Jesus and His truth. If we give up being searchers, our efforts will be in vain. Like the Magi, once we discover Christ, we cannot go back the old way. It is important for us to go away by a different route, to take a path of deeper faith; of more radical generosity and charity; of firmer hope – that God can and will do something with us and with the world around us. We must allow the light of the Bethlehem star to shine in us so that it can lead us to lead others to Christ! Have a blessed Little Christmas, and strive to be a light to others in this New Year!
Did you get a chance to pick up my Christmas gift to you? It’s Matthew Kelly’s latest book, “Resisting Happiness.” You can pick up your copy at the main entrances of our church.
Would you want to get more involved in the life of our parish? After some of our Sunday morning Masses this weekend we will hold a Ministry Showcase in the Family Life Center (Parish Hall), to which I invite all to see what type of ministry or activity might interest you. You will hear more information in the announcements.