Eiphany of The Lord in Christmas Time (Cycle B) – January 7, 2018

Christmas Time

The Liturgical Season of Christmas Time begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day, followed by Sunday Masses for: The Holy Family, Epiphany of the Lord, and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…including the fact that he was born to die for us. The Liturgical Color is white – a festive, joyful color. And, we can say “Merry Christmas” to our friends throughout this entire Christmas Season!

This Sunday’s Theme: The Epiphany of Jesus’ Royal Messiahship of Both Jews and Gentiles

The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “explanation.” A manifestation is the public display of something divine/spiritual made human/mortal. Historically several moments in Christ’s early life and ministry have been celebrated as His “epiphanies,” including His birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, His baptism by John the Baptist, His first miracle at Cana, and by His transfiguration on Mt. Tabor. On this Sunday, celebrating the visit of the Magi, the Church invites us to celebrate God’s manifestation of Jesus as a savior of all people – Gentiles as well as Jews.
Prayer – Holy and generous God, in Your great love You have revealed Yourself in creation. But You have done even more – You have revealed Yourself in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. By believing in and following Him, we are led to eternal life with You. Help us to be like the Magi who did homage to Jesus – worshiping, respecting, praising, and honoring Him, and were filled with His mercy and delight. We make our prayer in the name of Jesus the Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Who is Jesus? – “Jesus is my Lord (King, Leader, Ruler, Judge)
and my God (Creator, Supreme being, Source of all moral authority)”. (St. Thomas)
How do we “epiphany” Him? – “God calls us to praise His name and reveal Him.
We honor the Lord as we worship in our churches, as we testify to His work in our lives,
and as we proclaim the truth of His holy Word in our communities.” (Charles Stanley)

Reading 1 – Isaiah 60:1-6      Jerusalem shall be a light to all nations.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-13      Every nation on earth shall worship the Lord.
Reading 2 – Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6      Gentiles are coheirs in the promise of Christ.
Gospel – Matthew 2:1-12      The Magi seek out Jesus and do Him homage (worship, respect, praise, honor).

Reading 1      Isaiah 60:1-6                (Glory of God’s Church)

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – Jerusalem’s days of darkness are over (a reference to Israel’s time in exile that is now over). God is about to bring a New Dawn to Israel. So great will this new light be that all the Nations, not just the Jews (a reference to the Gentiles, and they are represented by the Magi in the Gospel reading) will be drawn to Bethlehem bearing all kinds of gifts. This prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled by Jesus’ birth.

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears His glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.

Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD. (Those who are from Midian, Ephah, and Sheba are all descendants of Abraham. God’s chosen people, who were scattered long ago, now come to participate in their ancient inheritance promised by God’s covenant with Abraham – “The Lord took Abram outside and said, look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, He added, shall your descendants be.”)

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Responsorial Psalm. Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-13                (The Messiah-King)

Today’s Psalm – “Lord, every nation on earth will adore You,” speaks of God’s universal plan to save all people, thereby connecting this psalm to the overall theme of this Sunday’s readings – Jesus’ Royal Messiahship of Both Jews and Gentiles.

R. – Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.
O God, with Your judgment endow the king, and with Your justice, the king’s Son; He shall govern Your people with justice and Your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. – Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.
Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more. May He rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

R. – Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.
The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him.
R. – Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.
For He shall rescue the poor when He cries out, and the afflicted when He has no one to help Him. He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor He shall save.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore You.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Reading 2.      Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6               (Good News for All)

Context – Ephesians sets before us a vision of Christ reigning in Heaven next to the Father and renewing the earth through His Church. It shows God’s saving work through Jesus. The Church is nothing less than God’s new creation in Christ.
Today’s Reading – Paul’s message about his special mission to bring the Good News to the Gentiles connects this reading with the general theme of the day. Jesus reveals to Paul and the Apostles that the total equality of Jews and Gentiles figures in God’s plan of salvation.

Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (The Jews are God’s chosen people, His family. The Gentiles are now part of this family which forms the new Israel and shares in the inheritance of God’s blessings including the opportunity for everlasting life through Jesus.)

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Gospel      Matthew 2:1-12                (Magi with Gifts)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission, He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – This Gospel is the fulfillment of the prophesy from the first reading, which speaks of all the nations streaming to Jerusalem bearing gifts for the new King. The Magi represent the non-Jewish world who are seekers of God in their own way. The Magi’s journey to Bethlehem in search of the new King, occurring about the first year after Jesus’ birth, in search of the new King is symbolic of the journey all seekers must take. Thus, Epiphany is not only a feast on which we celebrate God’s manifestation of Himself to the Gentile world, but also our movement toward God that the life of Jesus provides for us.
When Matthew is writing his Gospel in 80 AD, his own people (the Jews) have almost totally rejected Jesus while large groups of Gentiles are accepting Him. This rejection/acceptance dynamic is present in today’s Gospel. While Herod’s plot to kill Jesus symbolizes Israel’s rejection of Jesus, the Magi’s acceptance of Jesus symbolizes the Gentiles’ movement toward Jesus.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? (Since the Mag are not Jews, they can be considered to be the very first gentiles to receive the call to salvation in Christ.) We saw His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Due to his political ambition and lack of a religious sense, Herod saw a potential messiah-king as a dangerous rival to his own worldly power.) Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a Ruler, who is to shepherd My people Israel.” (Quotes from Micah 5:2. It is worth noting that Jewish tradition interpreted this prophecy as predicting the Messiah’s exact place of birth and as referring to a particular person. The prophesies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus the Christ.) Then Herod called the Magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the Child. When you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may go and do Him homage.” (Not to adore Him, but to dispose of Him. Such was Herod’s exclusively political view of things.) After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the Child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother. They prostrated themselves and did Him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.                The central point of this celebration is that God’s salvation is intended not only for the people of Israel, but for all people. We of the Church are called to be an ever-unfolding epiphany of God’s love and power to the entire world. The visit of the Magi occurs directly before the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus. We have come to consider the gifts they bring as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation. Gold is presented as representative of Jesus’ Kingship. Frankincense is a symbol of His divinity because priests burned the substance in the Temple. Myrrh, which was used to prepare the dead for burial, is offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.

Thought-provoking Reflections – 1. Herod the king was appointed “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate in 40 BC. I wonder what those senators thought when they later witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion (the real King of the Jews)? 2. Herod became famous for his extensive building projects, including the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple. Of all places, why would he do this? He was loyal to Rome not to Judaism. 3. From St. Gregory – The Magi gifts represent our gifts that we give to Jesus in our daily lives. Gold is Christ’ wisdom that allows us to worship Him as we reflect Him to others. Frankincense is the prayer and adoration we give Him. Myrrh is our daily self-sacrifices. (Sacrifices are the giving up of something good for something even better. – Such as giving of our time, talent, and treasury (our stewardship) to God. 4. The Coptic Christians in Egypt – Coptic means Egyptian. The history of the Coptic Church in Egypt is basically the history of Christianity in Egypt, for the current Coptic Church is a direct evolution from the visit of the Holy Family to Egypt. This visit was directed by an angel, in a dream to Joseph, to take the Holy Family to safety from Herod. How did the Magi know what gifts to bring? I believe that they had access to the writings of Daniel that talks about the coming of a Messiah and included the mention of a star that would light upon the Savior’s birth place.

Catechism 486 – The Father’s only Son, conceived as Man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of His human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples. Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”
Catechism 528 – The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the Wise Men (Magi) from the East, together with His baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the Magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The Magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the King of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be King of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship Him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires “Israelitica dignitas” (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).