Sunday Says Podcast – January 04, 2015 Mass Readings and Reflections
Feast of the Epiphany (NAB Translation)
Welcome to the Sunday Says podcast for January 4, 2015, the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord. Thank you for joining us as we familiarize ourselves with the Liturgy of the Word for this Sunday’s Mass which for this Sunday is a celebration of the Epiphany of our Lord. The word “Epiphany” means a “showing forth.” This “showing forth” is the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles who are represented by Magi (or Wise Men) from the East that come bearing gifts to the newborn Jesus. The ancient Feast of Epiphany invites us, like the Magi, to follow the star of Christ, to respond to his kingship, and to offer Him our treasures. Let’s take a first pass at these readings so rich in symbolism that they are worthy of much study and further reflection. As always our readings are taken from the Jerusalem translation for copyright purposes.
Our Old Testament reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah was originally written to provide hope to Jews returning from exile to encourage them to persevere in rebuilding their temple during a time when they were tempted to give up. During that time many in Jerusalem were frustrated and experiencing spiritual darkness. The prophetic message of hope is that a time is coming when the situation will be reversed. In time God will provide a new king and the city will be bathed in a light so glorious and radiant that people from faraway lands will seek her out and come bearing gifts. We will recall that Jesus claimed to be the “light of the world.” The prophecy from Isaiah that “nations will flock to her” is fulfilled in our Gospel reading today when Magi from the east, seeking this mysterious and divine presence, expecting something great, come bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The responsorial psalm echoes the message of the first reading and reflects our appropriate response to God’s light as revealed in Jesus Christ.
Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
In our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we again witness the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Jewish leaders at the time were undoubtedly familiar with the God’s promise to Abraham that Israel would be a “blessing to the nations,” but many had rejected any notion that Gentiles would be included in the coming kingdom of God. However, St. Paul, receiving a revelation from God, understood that it would be his very own mission to “show forth” Jesus Christ as the light to the nations. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was meant for all mankind, to allow all mankind the opportunity to be adopted into God’s family. This reality was foreshadowed by the Magi who, representing the pagan world, followed the star from the East coming to Jesus with gifts honoring his kingship. The message of Jesus as light to the world is the heart of the Epiphany.
Our gospel reading from St. Matthew takes us back to a period of history in which stars were associated with major events. The Magi, or Wise Men, from the East, were probably from Persia, who as astronomers and astrologers had devoted their lives to the study of the stars. It is interesting to note that this account is one of the earliest documented traditions within Christianity, and is represented in painting in the catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome. Notice that the Wise Men follow the star up to the vicinity of Jerusalem, but at some point have to inquire of the Jewish leaders to confirm the probable location of the baby Jesus. In other words, when the Magi no longer receive light from the star, they seek direction until the light appears again. Perhaps we too will get the most out of this text if we place ourselves in the shoes of the Magi and imitate their actions. Notice how they seek God sincerely, follow His light, persevere in their journey to find Him, seek direction when necessary, acknowledge Him in adoration and obedience, offer their best to Him and then return to their own countries avoiding the Evil One and filled with joy.
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