"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
January 8, 2012: The Epiphany of the Lord
Synopsis: The readings for Epiphany are the same each year. “Epiphany” means “manifestation.” It commemorates the visit of the Magi, the first Gentiles to discover Christ.
The emphasis in all three readings is how the Only Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, was revealed to the nations. In the first reading, Isaiah joyfully announces the return of the exiles from Babylon. The dark night of captivity has ended as the light of God dawns upon the people. The return of the exiles revealed the glory of God in whose light all nations shall walk. Jerusalem herself will shine with heavenly radiance, drawing kings from afar, bringing with them the wealth of their nations.
The psalm compliments the first reading while looking forward to the gospel: “All kings shall pay him homage; all nations shall serve him.”
In the second reading St. Paul explains how the Gentiles have become members of the Body of Christ thus fulfilling God’s plan to reunite the human race.
In this week’s gospel we hear the story of the magi who came to pay tribute to the newborn King. The star of Bethlehem reflects the common belief in ancient times that each person was represented by a star which appeared at his birth. The star was also a messianic sign, fulfilling Numbers 24:17: “A star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.”
Key verse: “Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.” (Isaiah 60:3)
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. [no. 528]
Benedict XVI: “We celebrate with joy the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the "manifestation" of Christ to the peoples who are represented by the Magi, mysterious figures who came from the East. We celebrate Christ, the destination of the pilgrimage of peoples in search of salvation.” [Homily, Jan. 6, 2007]
Life application: One of the most important documents to come out of Vatican II was the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. “Christ is the Light of nations,” it begins. “Because this is so this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church.” Like the star of Bethlehem the Church, that is to say, you and me, shows the way to Christ.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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