Gospel Reflection Jan 8 – Sr. Teresa
Sunday, January 8
The Epiphany of the Lord
Matthew 2: 1-12
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?
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
From the fourth Thursday in November through early January, nearly everyone in America parties. We stuff ourselves with turkey and dressing, homemade cookies, and cakes from treasured family recipes, plus many other delicacies. We have special food on New Year’s hoping to scare away bad luck and bring blessing and good fortune for the coming year. We stay up late, party, drink and entertain more than usual, spend lots of money, act nicer to others – and what do we get for all of this? We get January. We get January Dis-ease!!
Do you feel overweight, exhausted, and in debt? Is the house a mess? Yup—you’ve got it — January Dis-ease!! Have many of you have had football up to your eyebrows? Does the thought of one more party mix make your stomach talk back and threaten rebellion? Have the Christmas ornaments, which looked so precious and beautiful in early December, taken on a slightly tacky look? Yup—you’ve got it – January Dis-ease!
To add to all of this we have January, February, and March which are sometimes the worst winter weather months ahead of us. We get caught in looking back and wondering why? We often look forward with renewed resolve. Maybe that is why the Romans named the month January. It comes from the Roman god, Janus. Janus is depicted as a two-faced being with each face looking in the opposite direction. January is a time when we look back over the past year and decide what things we might want to change about ourselves. Then we proceed to make those New Year Resolutions (which we often forget about by mid-January.)
Well, do you have January Dis-ease? I know I have it big time!! It is a good thing to stop and take time to look back to see where we have come from, and it is a good thing to look ahead to see what things we want to be different.
Let’s not forget that between the fourth Thursday of November and January, we have the great Incarnational Miracle of Christmas and so that we don’t forget, we have the Feast of Epiphany in January. Sometimes this feast is called Little Christmas or the Feast of the Three Kings.
In the first reading today, from the prophet Isaiah we hear:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Isaiah reminds us that the in the midst of darkness the LORD rises upon us and his glory appears over us. Even though we walk in darkness, we are drawn to the light of a new dawn.
Even the earth is given the gift of Isaian prophecy. In our hemisphere, darkness covers the earth in these winter days — but almost imperceptibly — ever so gradually, light is overcoming the darkness. With each passing day, we are beginning to have slightly more daylight than the day before. Light will always overtake the darkness.
The Gospel tells the story of the Magi and is only found in Matthew. We hear of the Magi’s search to find the newborn king. This happens about two or three years after Jesus’ birth.
Are we like the visitors from the East? They didn’t have an exact direction and neither do we. A star led them, a tiny point of light in an expansiveness of dark sky. Each of us is led by a star, that grace deep within that calls us to search for Jesus Christ.
Their quest was mainly darkness and minimal light. Sometimes they could see the star clearly and at other times they had to trust that it was there. There are probably many times we feel that immense darkness and see very little light. We may be so overcome with grief or confusion that we wonder if God is anywhere or if God has abandoned us. In those times we learn that it is possible to journey in darkness. It is possible to learn to walk in darkness. It is in those times that we learn to lean on the faith of others and let the people who love us walk with us in the darkness.
The kings encountered Herod, who tried to discourage them in their search. Then they were manipulated by him and became unwitting accomplices in a horrible slaughter because he was so threatened by this newborn king. As we take this journey there may be “Herods” who try to discourage us from such a search. There are those who try to lead us into being complicit in things contrary to life – contrary to the ways of God.
Finally, we have the last phrase of the gospel passage that reminds the kings and us that, having seen the Christ Child, we need to return home, return back to “ordinary time,” a different way.
The cure for January Dis-ease is not a new diet. The cure is to take the same advice that was given to the wise visitors from the East. Don’t say, “Well, I made it through another Christmas. I’ve put the Christmas miracle away with all the other decorations and lights and I can forget about it for another year.” Once we do that, we return to our usual way of living life. Rather, having seen the Christ Child … let us go into the New Year a different way.
The cure for January Dis-ease is to say: “Christ has once again been born in my heart. Christ has once again pierced the darkness and brought light. Christ has once again passed up the temporary lodging of an inn and has set up residence in my stable (my heart). Christ is this incredible act of love given to me and I am going to share that love with others.”
Sister Teresa Tuite, OP