Thursday, January 2, 2014

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?"

We continue the celebration of Christmas with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 (EpiphanyA). And on the past Wednesday's New Year's Day Mass, we celebrated several themes: It is the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God and World Day of Prayer for Peace. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Liturgically, January 1 is the Octave of Christmas - the "eighth day" after his birth when he shed a first drop of blood in the rite of circumsion. As part of that rite, he received his Holy Name - Jesus.

Jan. 1, Feast of Mary the Mother of God

Quickly after acclaiming the birth of the Messiah we turn with equal wonder in contemplation of his mother, immaculate and therefore "full of grace", who does not know man because she has vowed herself to perpetual virginity and whom all generations have called "blessed": the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino clarifies, we certainly do not believe that Mary was a goddess. That’s polytheism and paganism. She posseses, as Father Cusick points out the highest, the rarest, the choicest prerogative of all. It is that she was without sin.

The understanding of today’s feast flows from and understanding of whom Jesus is. We believe that Jesus Christ is one person, with two natures, human and divine. And this paradoxical phrase - Mary the Mother of God - strikes at the very heart of Christmas. We extol the babe of Bethlehem as Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is so with us that after Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity.

At the moment of his conception in the womb of Mary, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains, God the Son united himself with a human nature forever. Humanity and divinity were so closely bound together in Jesus, son of Mary, that they could never be separated again. That is why we celebrate this day as a holy day of obligation.

Mary was a peasant to the last and yet Harvard historian Henry Adams calls her "the most powerful religious symbol in fifteen hundred years of Western history." Fr. James Gilhooley tell us that Helen of Troy may have launched a thousand ships, but the woman from Nazareth has launched a million artists.

Feast of the Epiphany

The Feast of the Epiphany is the oldest in the Liturgical Calendar after Easter and Pentecost and Epiphany was celebrated long before even Christmas itself came to be regarded as a feast.

Fr. James Gilhooley oints out to us that Tradition has us speak of the magi as three. Yet Matthew does not use a number. We say three since he speaks of three gifts. Happily Matthew specifies the gifts for us. In the 8th century, Venerable Bede gave us the traditional interpretation of their symbolism. The gold paid homage to the Child's royal line. The incense saluted His divinity. The myrrh forewarned of the passion. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio likewise notes the fact that Matthew gives them no names. They may be kings, but in this story they are merely supporting actors. They follow the true Star, the King of Kings. Only His name is important. Epiphany is not about the Magi–it’s all about Jesus.

Here in this story of the coming of the Wise Men we see clearly a very important element of Christ’s Mission coming in right from the start, namely, his mission to the Gentiles. Fr. Alex McAllister tells us that the rejection of Christ by Israel becomes the opportunity for Christ to be revealed to all the nations and so ultimately to us today.

The Wise Men offer gifts to Jesus because - Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B explains - they recognize that the humble wisdom of Jesus eclipses all forms of merely human wisdom. Jesus Christ was displayed before the world at His birth, during His baptism and through His public life, beginning with the wedding feast of Cana. Paul Dion, STL likewise notes that by giving gifts, they came to better know His reason for being. Pauls' intuition tells him that this is a way that God has of revealing Himself to us.

Thus, we need to show Christ's Presence to others in the very way we live our live, Fr. Joseph
Pellegrino reminds us. Catholic Christians would do well to seek last place and try to be servant of all. Especially, Fr. John Foley, S. J. notes, if we would like to know why, on this Epiphany, a tiny baby is light to all nations.

Finally, Fr. Ron Rolheiser shares the words from one of his retreat directors from several years ago: “I’m going to try to teach you how to pray so that sometime in prayer, you will open yourself up in such a way that you can hear God say to you - I love you! - because unless that happens you will always be dissatisfied and searching for something to give you a completeness you don’t feel. Nothing will ever be quite right. But once you hear God say those words, you won’t need to do that restless search anymore.”

Ushering in the New Year

The beginning of a new calendar year invites us to reflect on the past and focus on the future.

Most New Year's resolutions end up as failed endeavors. While Paul Dion, STL shares an important tip on how to fix your New year's resolutions. But when you ring in the New Year tonight and decide in your excitement to make some resolutions there is one you shouldn’t include: Finding a new job. Experts say you must be deliberate in deciding what you want and how to achieve it, or don't bother at all.

Now here's something worth staying up late to ponder: the Yom Yahweh, the Day of the Lord, in which every tear will be wiped away and all things will be made new; the day when the Father brings to completion, in the Supper of the Lamb, the work of salvation first announced in the call of Abraham; the day which begins that endless day called the Kingdom come in its fullness; the day on which that often-hollow phrase “the international community” takes on real meaning. Compared to that, Times Square on New Year’s Eve is pretty small beer.

Glad Tidings & Mark Wahlberg

Judith Costello shares another article from her blog, Mysteries of Parenting. Her writing projects are on hold. And today, she is not a Working Writer. Instead, she is a Nurse, Nag and Comforter. These kind of days remind us that we are not in charge. God is in charge of this world and my life. He holds the bigger vision. He knows what can be learned from these days set apart from the usual routine. He can truly heal all of us.

And here's one truly inspiring story. In the modern world, we are told, religion is being pushed to the side. Church-going is down, cynicism is up, and old-fashioned Christianity is not so slowly going the way of the penny-farthing bicycle. And nowhere, we are told, is this more apparent than in Hollywood, land of the superficial, the catch-a-passing-trend, the every-man-for-himself. And then there is Mark Wahlberg. Gabrielle Donnelly speaks to the Hollywood superstar about his family, his Catholic faith, and being sent to jail as a teenager.

“Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life,” Wahlberg says, "the first thing I do each day is pray." Now that is truly inspiring.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Happy New Year to you all!

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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