I. What’s in a gift? Since the early days of Christianity, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the magi presented to Jesus. These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world. In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the magi, scholars think that these three were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming—an interpretation made popular in the well-known Christmas carol “We Three Kings.” But, we, I think, are more like the Little Drummer Boy who said, “I am a poor boy too. . .I have no gift to bring. . .That’s fit to give our king.” Would you honor the King of Kings with the iPhone 12S or the PlayStation 5 or would you give the gift of yourself; your daily comings and goings, struggles and triumphs, your morning and evening prayer in praise for His honor and glory?
II. Epiphany–a Revelation, a Manifestation! People diligently search for love, acceptance, meaning, success, fulfillment. Left to our own seeking, we almost always come up short. We need guidance, others’ wisdom, perseverance. But we also need the Light that is Christ, a Light that leads us beyond ourselves to seek diligently for the things and values that are of God. Today’s Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord continues the celebration of the astonishing mystery of God’s manifestation to the very ends of the earth. The visitors from the East symbolize the extent of God’s salvation as it unfolds for peoples of every land. As they offer gifts, as it would be fitting a king, they announce to the world that an astonishing event has taken place. All peoples will know the glory of God!
III. Mary & Joseph, and Jesus/Refugees in a Foreign Land: the truth is that our country is made up of immigrants from many lands; the United States is a “melting pot” of nations! Our moral tradition calls on all people of faith and goodwill to stand up in defense of life and human dignity; it’s a fundamental calling for us as Catholics. Welcoming the immigrant and migration more broadly has a central place in the development of the Judeo Christian tradition. Stories in both the Old (Jewish Scriptures) and the New Testament (Christian Scriptures) highlight the fact that in providing hospitality to the stranger, we might also be unwittingly entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:2; Genesis 18:1–15). While National Migration Week has fallen in January in the past, it is moving to September to align with the World Day for Migrants and Refugees. The dates for 2021 are September 20-26.
IV. “We Never Become Poor by Sharing What We Have.” What a joy to experience your generosity these past months! During the coronavirus pandemic, I have been edified by your tithing and generosity to the Church, to your parish. Inspiring as well are parishioners who, aware of their abundant blessings, chose to share those blessings with the needy in various ways. Your generosity never ceases. From our early collections for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society outreach up through the Giving Tree—you continued to share what you have. As your pastor, I am grateful for your faithfulness to Sunday Eucharist, whether you participate in person or on live stream, and your unselfish outreach—all of which are expressions of your solid commitment of faith. Together we can build a strong community where Jesus Christ is the center!
V. New Year’s Resolution: Are you for it or against it? Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for 2021? If not, there’s still time, and Pope Francis has some ideas for you.
These are the ten things that he called upon Vatican employees to do:
- “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
- “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”
- “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”
- “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”
- “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”
- “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
- “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.”
- “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”
- “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”
- “Making sure your Christmas is about Jesus and not about shopping.”
Hope this helps, and happy New Year!
VI. Persevering Faith is the Road to Sanctity! Elizabeth Ann Bailey Seaton, born during the Revolutionary War, grew up in comfort on Wall Street. The big story is her role in founding the Sisters of Charity and her work in establishing orphanages, hospitals, and Catholic schools. The undertold story is her personal struggle: motherless at age three, a good marriage with children shortened by bankruptcy and the death of her husband, loss of friends as she converted to Catholicism, anti-Catholic persecution, the death of two daughters, and a heartache of a wayward son. Persevering faith is the road to sanctity. I invite you to Mass at 7:00am or 12:05pm on Monday, January 4.