Archive for the ‘Epiphany’ Category

Epiphany – Year A

John Donne

was a famous writer in 17th century England.

One of his stories concerns a man

who was searching for God.

One day the hero of the story decided that

God must live on top of a high mountain

at the far end of the world.

And so he set out to climb it.

After a difficult and dangerous journey

through great forests and dense jungles,

the man arrives at the mountain.

As he stands there looking at it,

he sees that it is much steeper and higher

than he had ever dreamed.

But because he wants to find God

more than anything else,

he does not become discouraged.

Before beginning his climb

he decides that the best route

is by the east side.

The next morning at the crack of dawn

he begins his climb

up the east side of the mountain.

It so happens that about that time,

God who was indeed on top of the mountain,

begins to think to himself,

“I love my people so much,

to show them my great love,

I will descend the mountain

and live among the people as one of them.

So God studies all four sides of the mountain

and concludes that the best route down

is by the west side.

The next morning at the crack of dawn,

God begins his descent.

And so it happens,

that as the man is climbing up the east side

of the mountain,

God is climbing down the west side.

As luck would have it, the two pass

on opposite sides of the mountain.

When the man reaches the top of the mountain,

he finds it empty.

He falls down and begins to weep.

“Why should I go back down the mountain?” he asks.

There’s nothing there but poor people.

Why should I make the dangerous journey

back to my village?”

John Donne intended this story to be a parable

for the people of his time.

Many of them were searching for God.

When they couldn’t find him,

they decided that God didn’t even exist.

To these men and women Donne was saying

that God dwells among his people.

This is the great message of Christmas,

that God took up residence among his people

that is where we must look for him.

And that is where we will find him.

And this brings us 

to the feast of the Epiphany,

which we celebrate this Sunday.

The epiphany is a mystery of light,

symbolized by the star

that shone over Bethlehem.

The true source of light is Christ.

The divine plan was mysterious

as John explains in his gospel:

“The light came into the world,

but people loved the darkness rather than the light

because their deeds were wicked.” (John 3:19)

In the mystery of Christmas

Christ’s light first shines

on Mary and Joseph in Nazareth.

The light was also seen

by the shepherds of Bethlehem,

who rush to the Grotto. (Luke 2:12)

The shepherds

together with Mary and Joseph

represent the “remnant of Israel” –

those poor ones,

to whom the Good News was proclaimed.

Finally, Christ’s brightness shines out,

and reaches the Magi,

who are the first pagans,

to come to Christ.

The palaces of the rulers of Jerusalem

are left in the dark.


when this news is taken there,

it does not give rise to joy,

but to fear and hostile reactions.

The personal presence of Jesus here on earth

is the beginning

of the universal reconciliation

of the world to God.

Jesus is the ultimate destination of history.

The church is called

to make Christ’s light shine in the world.

Matthew’s gospel says to us:

“In the same way

your light must shine before all,

so that they may see goodness in your deeds

and give praise to your heavenly Father.”  (Matthew 5:16)

And here’s where John Donne’s story

helps us better understand

the two important lessons

of Christmas and today’s feast.

The first lesson

is that God has truly come down from heaven

to live among his people.

And the second lesson is

that the people among whom

he has chosen to live

were not temple dwellers.

They were not intellectuals in universities.

They were not kings in palaces.

Jesus chose to dwell among the poor,

among the homeless,

and among the hungry.

Let’s close with a poem that sums up

the message of Christmas in practical terms:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and princes are home,

when the shepherds are back with the flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:

to feed the hungry,

to  release the prisoners,

to rebuild the nations,

to bring peace among brothers and sisters,

to make music with the heart.” (Anonymous)

(with notes of Benedict XVI, on the Epiphany, circa 2008)


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Epiphany – year C

Mark Twain used to tell a joke
that he put a dog and a cat
in a cage together as an experiment,
to see if they could get along.

They did.
Then he put together a bird, a pig and a goat.
They, too, got along fine
after a few adjustments.

Then he put together a Baptist,
a Presbyterian and a Catholic
and all hell broke loose.

Mark Twain did not even bother
putting together a Christian,
a Muslim, and a Hindu.
That was unthinkable in his day.

In today’s world, however,
it has become obvious
that Christians live in the same cage,
in the same city, in the same world
with people of other religions.

There is only one God,
and all who seek God with a sincere heart
are led to him,
though they call him by different names.

One thing Christians
have in common with other religions
is that we all worship the same God.

We are all children of the same Father.
This truth is difficult
for religious people to appreciate
because religious people all over the world
tend to claim that they have exclusive access to God and to the truth.

In the Old Testament,
the Jewish people believed that they
were the exclusive people of God.
They divided the whole world into two:
the Jews were the people of God,
and the Gentiles, who were not.

Some of their prophets and wise men
tried to correct this belief
by reminding them
of the universal love of God
for all humankind.
But it was not until Jesus came
that this idea began to sink in.

As the letter to the Ephesians states,
Christ made both groups, Jews and Gentiles,
into one people and broke down
the wall of hostility dividing them. (Ephesians 2:14)

Today’s second reading
describes this truth as a mystery.
It is a mystery for two reasons:
first, human reason alone could not arrive at such knowledge without the light of divine revelation
second, even after the truth has been revealed it still proves to be a paradox to human reasoning.

In the past, Christians tended
to make the same mistake as the Jews of old
by claiming that there is no salvation
outside the church.

Then Vatican II came along.
The church opened the windows to the Spirit of God,
and came to recognize that
God’s truth is available to other religions.

Christians have been given
a unique revelation of God
in and through Jesus Christ – the bright star.

But are we awake to see it?
Is Christ the bright star that enlightens our lives?
And if so, do we follow it?”

Like the Magi
we must find our way
around the power structures of this world
which are waiting to derail our journey.

this way around,
seems to be the path of non-violence,
in a world in which power, prestige and privilege
are jealously guarded
even to the point of murder
and the killing of innocents.

It is true that
we do not always understand
where the road ahead lies,
or where we will end up.

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that we are being led –
that we are on our way.

When Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankl
was arrested by the Nazis in World War II,
he was separated from
his family, his property and his possessions.

He had spent years researching
and writing a manuscript
on the importance of finding meaning in life.

When he was in the concentration camp he wrote:
“Now it seemed as if nothing and no one
would survive me;
neither a physical or spiritual child of my own!

I was told to give up my clothes
and put on the worn out rags of an inmate
who had been sent to the gas chambers.

In the pocket of my ragged jacket,
I found a single page
torn out of a Hebrew prayer book.

It contained the Jewish prayer,
which said: “Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is one God.
And you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your might.”

“How should I have interpreted such a ‘coincidence’
other than as a challenge
to live my thoughts
instead of merely putting them on paper.”

He later wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning:
“There is nothing in the world
that would so effectively help one to survive
even the worst conditions,
as the knowledge
that there is a meaning in one’s life . . .
he who has a why to live for,
can bear almost any how.”

In the journey from Advent to the Epiphany
the readings have reminded us of our own
days of family, of hope, of love and of peace.

We may have remembered blessings long forgotten.
The Magi gave the very best they had
to the One who is himself,
the greatest treasure of all.

We are called to give him ‘our best’ as well.
We are called to give him our very selves.
We are on a journey of faith.
The bright star
is the presence of God in our lives,

We are on a sacred journey
which will lead us ever more deeply
to the sacred in all of life.

It will lead us
to a commitment in which
God will be honored by our choices
and therefore, God will be honored
by our very lives.

This journey is not a burden.
It is a great gift that will bring us much joy.

Let us reflect on this mystery today
as we celebrate the Magi coming from pagan lands
to worship the new-born Jesus
while the people in Jerusalem,
so sure that they are God’s ‘chosen people’
are fast asleep,
unaware that the kingdom of God has come.

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