the Epiphany of the Baptism of Jesus by John

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The feast the epiphany is such a powerful feast. Though Christmas is that big day that is celebrated commemorating the nativity, it many times is looked at as a birthday. If Christmas is that day of birth, it is the epiphany that marks the day of understanding who that Child in the manger was. That understanding is what makes the epiphany such a powerful day. Within the narrative of that day in conjunction with the nativity gospels, there is given so much information on discerning who that infant was. Though that  day frequently focuses on the magi, there are others who face their own epiphanies of who Christ is, and through the eyes of each of them, we too can get a glimpse of who the Christ child is. There are the eyes of Mary and Joseph, those of Anna and Simenon, the shepherds, and then also those magi. Each of those had their own epiphanies on who the Christ Child was based on their experiences and knowledge. To each of these God was manifested in an infant, they recognized God in a new life.

The next epiphany of who that child was, comes decades later at the baptism Of Jesus by John in the Jordan river. Here it is a crowd that hears “this is my beloved son whom I am well pleased.” With that thy don’t just see who Jesus is, but they also take an active part in Gods plan. With that voice of God, and the clouds parting, they truly know that God both recognizes them and is with them. At that baptism they are given that choice to listen and follow him. To think about Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, isn’t one also reminded just a bit of Moses at the red sea? Though God conversed with Moses, it was his followers that had to make the decision to follow him into the red sea, and emerge in a new freedom on the other side. That decision and commitment was as much about Moses followers as it was about Moses. The same is true when those Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the promised land; they could be led to that river but the decision was theirs to cross it. In looking at Jesus baptism, one can see Jesus taking on his ministry, and one can also see those in that crowd making a personal decision to follow him.

In the Baptism of the Lord, the epiphany that the disciples experienced is described in three events. They are the clouds opening, the spirit descending, and that voice of God speaking to them. With that they realized that God had not abandoned them, though with life as harsh as it was they had every reason to believe that he had. In that baptism their God had returned to them, and again spoke to them. That was a profound event that they were witness to. The baptism though is more than being witness. Johns baptism was also about repentance and returning to the Lord. These don’t simply speak of witness, but they speak of action. In witnessing that epiphany at the baptism they are called to change, and they are called to take action, and they are called to follow him.

In reading the accounts of this event, there is one other point that can  not be missed. In this scene there is the Father present as he says “this is my beloved Son”, there too is the spirit that descends in the form of a dove which is that same spirit that descends on creation, and then there is Jesus son of the Father. In this Epiphany the Trinity becomes manifest as one God with three distinct natures. It is the beginning of a new testament. The path that they are being called to follow is truly a new path. Epiphanies of God to the chosen people occur throughout the OT, the burning bush, in clouds, as a pillar of fire are a few examples. They are common enough that there is always the danger of glossing over the appearance of both the Spirit and the Father, while directing the focus on the Son. The danger of course is missing this appearance as an appearance of the trinity. It is so blatantly obvious, it might get lost in plain sight. To the writers, they were familiar with Gods presence in the clouds and heavens, and the spirit as a dove was equally common  to their faith. The revelation of Christ as Son of God, and the Son of God as flesh and bones was their epiphany. That is the Theophany. It is that Theophany which is the central teaching of Christian Faith, and this writing very much points towards that new faith and new direction. On one hand a person can think on a passage and meditate on all sorts of things. On the other hand these texts are the basis of a theology and dogma that is quite well-defined. Neither should be slighted. The catechism of the trinity, and of baptism do have their basis in the testament on the baptism of the Lord.

Theophany: a visible manifestation to humankind of God

>a repost from 2014

down from heaven

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Whenever I read the account of those men lowering the paralytic through the roof, I think of the great device of the ancient Greek plays. I think of that crane that would lower god through the roof and onto the stage. There god was, dangling from a rope! The paralytic friends certainly showed creativity in seeking help for their friend and their persistence should not be missed. Neither should the comedy. The paralytic could not help himself,although he was wise in choosing his friends. Those friends, and their friend in a stretcher, had much to confront as they made it towards that house. Obstacles, people shouting and blocking their way. Amongst themselves surly they argued, and the frightening fear of a stampede for one unable to walk. Panicked frantic, stumbling circus clowns. Such creativity in forging a path to their destination. Such determination.

The short story also emphasis that their salvation was not far away. The world, through Christ, was turned upside down. God no longer distant resided next to us. The story also tells why God, in the second person of the Trinity, came down from a lofty perch in heaven, to visit us in earth. The reason was, and is, to heal us. It is to grant us forgiveness of sins, it is so that we might get up and  walk . It is so that we might follow him. The story also hints of obstacles that might get in ones way. The obstacles that block, and the friends that hoist us around them.Those friends though did not use their intellect and resources purely for their own gain, their mission was to give aid to another. The gospel speaks as much of a friends mission, as an invalids cure. With a little thought, and a little imagination, I see the apostles crossing a stormy sea in a boat. One shouldn’t forget how they were saved.

Mk 2:1-12

Thursday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

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Todays gospel doesn’t seem to be an overcomplicated one, its message appears to be very easily grasped.Mk 1:40-45 In this reading a leper tells Jesus He can rid him of the disease if he so desires, and Jesus does reach out and cures him. It is a simple call and response. The leper cries out and Jesus responds. It is a reminder for Christians to be responsive to those in need, it is a reminder for Christians to reach out to those in need. Jesus leads by example. A lesson can also be seen in that lepers actions, the leper also reaches out and asks for relief if it is Gods will. The leper enters into a dialogue with Christ, and that is something to remember when in trouble. Cry out. These are simple lessons easily grasped , but so often ignored. I should add that at the period of time that this gospel story takes place few would have reached out to that leper. In that day the lepers infirmary was regarded to be of his own fault. He was not wounded, but a sinner. Jesus actions tells of Gods mercy, and of Gods desire for us to be made whole. It is an action of love, compassion , mercy, and forgiveness in the form of a simple extended hand.

 

 

friday, first week of ordinary time

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Think about some of the people today who are brought to Christ through the help of others, where would one start? Start perhaps at the line that flows from the Eucharist at Mass, they are the people that receive Christ and carry Him out that Church. They bring Christ to those infirm, or hungry, or struggling, or lost. They do so through obedience to that message He preached. Sometimes the path by which they deliver Jesus to others might not always be noticeable because they are not dressed in religious garments, or administering Christ through a religious institution; but they carry Him to those in need just the same.

“They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.”

They are the missionaries who deliver Christian relief to those in need, and they are those who share what little they have because they learned to live as Christians. Both those that hand out a loaf of bread, and those that share their allotted bread with others. They bring Christ to others as counselors, and by lending their time and ear and shoulder to a neighbor in need. Simply because they heard His message and followed him. One through an institution and a vocation, the other through a conviction. Those who hear His message find a way to bring Him to others, no matter the circumstances, and no matter their profession, or state in life.Those living their faith will find ways to bring Christ’s healing to those in need through some ingenious, and often unnoticeable ways. Sometimes when receiving that Eucharist one must pause to think. Yes it is received for my benefit, to give me strength and healing. It also is given to me so that I might deliver it to another perhaps unable to reach for it themselves. Its not always about the priest delivering Christ in a church. Sometimes its about the merchant, and the mechanic, or the industrialist and artists doing the same in their own way. Ordinary people in ordinary lives, bringing Christ to others.

Come after me 3

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A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”


Jesus called his apostles by saying “come after me” and they did so without hesitation. Here in the gospel is another that Jesus calls after, though not in words. This leper clearly must have heard the message that Jesus preached. After discovering Christ’s message that leper came to him. In that society a leper was an outcast considered ritually unclean. One message that leper would have never heard was for anyone to call to him so that he might come closer. On the contrary had that leper ever approached a crowd, he would have been obligated to call out “unclean” so that the people could distance themselves from that unclean leper. For that leper to approach Jesus, he clearly must have heard Jesus call to him. With that one can see who Jesus calls after. It is not just the elite, or the powerful, or the privileged few, or those considered blessed. On the contrary Jesus calls after those wounded, and outcast, and cursed, and isolated. It is those who’s wounds he heals, and it is to those who he offers his blessings. He makes them clean, and being clean was a very big thing. Being clean brought them back into society. More importantly being clean allowed them to approach “the temple”, it allowed them to be brought back to God.

mk 1:40-45