Pray for zeal to spread the Word to all

By Msgr. William Carr

Epiphany of the Lord

Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6; and Matthew 2:1-12
The word “epiphany” means “manifestation” or “glorious appearance.” Originally, the word referred to the big showy event when a monarch visited his provinces.
There were parties and banquets and parades; there was a general amnesty for prisoners; everyone enjoyed the “epiphany” of the prince. The word came to be used in a theological and liturgical sense: It refers to the glorious appearance of Jesus Christ as King and Savior of the entire world.
He is not merely the Messiah of the Jews; he is Lord of all peoples and nations and places. Epiphany is, thus, the original feast of Christ the King. Epiphany is a kind of Mission Sunday. All of the texts of Sunday’s Mass teach urgent will of God to include the non-Jews (the Gentiles) in God’s saving plan. The Magi or Wise Men (not astrologers!) represent all the nations of the world: They were not of the “Chosen,” but they came from afar to do homage to Jesus.
The gospel emphasizes the irony that these people who had been in darkness work hard to find the light; meanwhile the people who should have seen the light preferred darkness.
The first reading speaks of people coming from “afar” to bring gifts to the Lord. “Afar” means that they were not worshipers of the one God. The second reading is Paul’s marvel at the mystery of God’s plan: He now intends to include non-Jews (Gentiles) in salvation.
In the western Church, Epiphany was associated with three events: the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. Nowadays, we separate these three events. But each of them is a manifestation of the glory of Jesus Christ.
We need to examine our consciences: God intends all persons to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. But they cannot do this unless we reach out to them. Each of us is called to be a witness of Christ to our neighborhood, our community, and to the world. If we do nothing, the world will continue to sink, and the Church will continue to lose ground. Let us pray that we may have zeal for the missions -- at home and abroad.

Baptism of Our Lord
Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7; Acts 10:34-38; and Luke 3:15-16,21-22
The baptism of Jesus was his inaugural as the Suffering Servant of the Lord. Every prophet had an inaugural experience. Jesus’ inaugural comes at his baptism.
He identifies himself with sinful mankind by accepting a baptism leading to repentance and forgiveness. In so doing, he takes upon himself all the suffering and sins of the whole world. The “Suffering Servant Songs in Isaiah (Of which our first reading is the first) tell of an “everyman” figure who humbles himself, who is gentle, and who takes all evil unto himself; by his own suffering, he vicariously heals all.
This Suffering Servant Song begins with the words “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am well-pleased.” In the original languages, these are almost identical with the words of the Father in the gospel.
The gospel according to Luke emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit. In the baptism of Jesus, Luke emphasizes that the Spirit comes upon Jesus. Henceforth, everything he does is in the power of God. The dove was the symbol of Israel. The dove here may symbolize that Jesus becomes Israel personified — or the new Israel. In himself he will save all.
The second reading is the story of the conversion of Cornelius. God is no respecter of persons; Jesus came to save all peoples of all times and places.
In our baptism, we are freed from sin precisely because in his baptism Jesus took to himself the suffering and sinfulness of the world. Jesus’ other “baptism” is when he gives his life for the sake of us all; he strips away all sin and nails it to the cross. Through this “baptism” he empowers the sacraments to be signs of his salvation among us.