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Monthly Archives: January 2022

The Epiphany of the Lord

Isaiah 60: 1-6 + Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-13 + Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6 + Matthew 2: 1-12
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Sunday, January 2, 2022

The summer after I graduated from college seminary and before I started my graduate studies in theology I worked as a camp counselor at Camp Santa Maria in Colorado.
This camp, funded by the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver,
was for the benefit of inner-city children from Denver.
It was located about 90 minutes southwest of Denver,
nestled in the Rocky Mountains.

The first night the campers arrived at Camp Santa Maria, the other camp counselors
and I would take them on a short hike up into the mountains.
I called it the “Star Walk.”
The campers would see something they had never seen before,
having lived their lives under the bright lights of the big city.
They would see stars for the first time.
Wonder welled up in their hearts, and awe filled their souls
as they pointed at the prickly points of light twinkling in the night sky.
Without fail, there would be a shooting star or two blazing across the sky
that would elicit cries of delight from these novice stargazers.

These kids had entered a whole new world they did not know existed.
That night, on that star walk, they were taken out of their own teeny-tiny worlds
into a much grander universe.
They also got in touch with something great and glorious,
that they were made for something bigger, that they were made by Someone Bigger and made for something more.
They got in touch with their desire for the Creator of the Stars, and His desire for them.

Sadly, not many people see stars anymore, and this is not totally due to light pollution.
Sadly, not many folks even look up to see the stars because they are looking down
all the time, looking inward, all caught up in their own little world.

The modern American dis-ease is not COVID-19, but the dis-ease of self-centeredness, of navel gazing, of being so wrapped up in one’s own small life
that one misses Life itself.
The pandemic has only sharpened, exacerbated this tendency to turn inward.
This inward-turning tendency occurs when we focus solely on taking care of me
and what is mine.
It manifests itself when we only associate with others who are just like us,
our own small group or tribe.

The invitation of Epiphany, of the manifestation of the Son of God as Savior
of the entire world and all its peoples, is to turn outward, to look beyond
our small world into the larger world at the many diverse people God has created.
A world of wonder and delight.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, by the grace flowing from the inexhaustible spring
of the Spirit, we move beyond self-centeredness and selfishness to live for others,
to love in grander and more inclusive ways.
We begin to see by the light of the Star of Grace the face of the Christ-child shining forth from those who are of a different race, language, ethnicity, or gender.

The movement continues outward as we move beyond nationalism
and recognize our interconnectedness with all the people scattered across the globe.

This movement of grace, lit by the Star-light of the Spirit of God, moves us beyond
even earth itself, beyond thinking this spinning globe is the center of the universe
to the recognition that it revolves around the sun, as our lives revolve
around the Son of God, who is the center, the source, the reason for our being.

The Star of Faith moves us into the “more” out there and helps us resist the temptation to focus inward, to remain in the small world of the self.

We need other star-seekers to help us follow the signs to the presence of Christ
in the world today.
We need those who follow a star seemingly out of reach to teach us
how to do the same.
All star-seekers experience a “manifestation” of God’s glory, an epiphany,
which changes their life. They all experience an “Ah-Hah” moment,
a radiance so bright that it captures their heart, their soul, their very life.

Sr. Helen Prejean shows us how to follow the Star of Mercy
in order to find the Merciful One.
This star led her to Death Row and to the discovery of a mercy
she didn’t know she possessed.
The mercy belonged to the Creator of the stars, but it was hers to use in ministering
to condemned criminals and to their families, finding Christ there.
This Star of Mercy also opened her eyes to the suffering of the families members
of those who experience violent crimes,
and to find the suffering Christ shining through their lives.

There was another woman who had an Epiphany that would not stop.
She saw God’s face shining forth from the faces of the poor.
This woman of deep faith spent her life not only feeding them, clothing them, and giving them shelter, but also fighting the injustices in the world that kept them poor.
The compassionate ministry that continues in Catholic Worker houses
has turned Dorothy Day into a star that keeps on shining.

Martin Luther King lived his life guided by the Star of Hope
in the face of the evil of racism and prejudice.
This star led him to see Christ present in a people who suffered
from the hateful deeds of others simply because of the color of their skin.
King’s hope was that we could all live together as brothers and sisters,
no matter what the color of our skin, and he warned if we chose not to do so,
that we would perish together as fools.
He followed this star to his death and is the patron saint
of those who find it hard to follow stars.

And then there as was a man of God from San Salvador by the name of Oscar Romero.
He followed the Star of Truth which revealed the lies
perpetuated by the powerful people in El Salvador, lies he brought into the light.
He would not be silent, but became a voice for those who had no voice,
for those being brutally oppressed by those few who held onto power.

But this only happened because Oscar had an epiphany,
recognizing the persecuted Christ in the faces of the oppressed.
He died as he followed the Star of Truth, but his star shines on in the people of Salvador.

To this list of star-seekers you can add an Oklahoma farm boy
who was murdered and martyred in Guatemala, the country next door to El Salvador,
one year after Oscar Romero suffered the same fate, because he, too, chose to follow
the Star of Truth and stand with a people oppressed.

You can also add to this list of star seekers a teenage girl from Sweden
who has traveled the world challenging us adults to live simply and take better care
of our planet so that the next generations can simply live on this earth.
She has endured ridicule from powerful leaders but that has not deterred her in her mission to protect our common home, this earth, which is God’s gift to us to care for.

When we look up and outward, we notice many stars shining in the seeming darkness
of this world.
They all light the way to the source of light and love—Christ himself.

Christ Jesus wants nothing less than the gift of our life laid down at his feet.
Can we give ourselves to Him totally and fully?

Can we allow the Light of the World to shine through us, and in doing so,
add our names to the list of the Star-seekers?

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Numbers 6: 22-27 +Galatians 4: 4-7 + Luke 2: 16-21
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: January 1, 2022

The 8 days stretching from Christmas Day through the 1st Day of the New Year
are called the “Octave of Christmas”, or the 8 days of Christmas.
The Church in her wisdom understands that the incredible story of the Incarnation,
of the Son of God taking human flesh and being born for our salvation,
cannot be celebrated in one mere day.
But rather, every day from Christmas to New Year’s is celebrated as Christmas Day,
that we might be drawn deeper into this mighty mystery of Love,
so that the child born of Mary might be born in us anew.

On the first day of Christmas the focus was on the birth of the Son of God.
On this 8th day of Christmas, the focus shifts to the Mother of God,
Today’s solemnity is a perfect bookend to a week of celebrating
the impossible becoming possible, God being born of a woman like you and me.

“For it is nearly impossible to believe: God shrinking down to the size of a zygote,
implanted in the soft lining of a woman’s womb.
God growing fingers and toes in utero.
God kicking and hiccupping in the womb.
God inching down the birth canal and entering this world covered in blood.
God crying out in hunger. God reaching for his mother’s breasts.
God totally relaxed, eyes closed, his chubby little arms raised over his head
in a posture of complete trust.
God resting in his mother’s lap.” (Rachel Held Evans, p.4, Wholehearted Faith)

Only the mind graced with faith can “make sense of this stupendous storyline:
God trusted God’s very self, totally and completely and in full bodily form,
to the care of a woman.
God needed women for survival.
Before Jesus fed us with the bread and the wine, the body and the blood,
Jesus himself needed to be fed, by a woman.
He needed a woman to say: ‘This is my body, given for you.’”
(Rachel Held Evans, p.4-5, Wholehearted Faith)
Before Jesus could feed the world by laying down his life,
a woman had to offer her life for him.

A week ago we heard with the shepherds the great good news heralded
by the angel about the birth of a Savior.
Today we see the shepherds transformed into heralds themselves of this Good News,
trumpeting the great news of the Savior’s birth to the world.

Can we go with the shepherds into this New Year as heralds of the Good News?
Having received the great news of the birth of the Savior,
having allowed the Savior by grace to be born in us anew,
can we join the shepherds in trumpeting to the whole world the Gospel?
Can we join the shepherds in praising and glorifying God with our lives
for all that we have heard and seen: that God has been born of a woman,
that God is with us, that God is therefore for us and not against?

In this New Year, one way we can join the shepherds in announcing to the world
that God is with us, that God out of Love has come to save us,
is by joining the Mother of God in her song of praise.
Mary’s Magnificat is the perfect hymn of praise to sing to the world
at the beginning of this New Year.
For it is a song full of strength and passion and needs to be shouted out to the world.

We shout w/Mary in the mansions of the wealthy & on the floors of stock exchanges…
“God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”
In the corridors of the West Wing and the Capitol…
“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly!”
Among women who have survived assault, harassment, and rape
only to be publicly maligned by their powerful abusers…
“He has look with favor on the lowliness of his servant!
Surely, from now on all generations will called be blessed.”
Among the poor, the refugees, the victims of gun violence,
“His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”
(Rachel Held Evans, Wholehearted Faith, pp. 142-143)

“In the Magnificat, Mary isn’t merely making a birth announcement….
Instead, Mary’s holy hymn of praise, Mary’s trumpeting of the Good News,
seems breathtaking in its bravado: she declares the inauguration of a new kingdom,
one that stands in stark contrast to every other regime—past, present, and future—
that relies on violence and exploitation to achieve greatness.

Mary proclaims, as should we, that God has indeed chosen sides.

And it’s not with the powerful but with the humble.
It’s not with the rich but with the poor.
It’s not with the occupying force but with people who are occupied and oppressed, disregarded and disempowered.
It’s not with vain, narcissistic kings but with an unwed, unbelieved teenage girl
entrusted with the holy task of birthing, nursing, and nurturing God. (Evans, p. 143)

Mary’s Son is born into a world far from perfect, coming to love a people
ho are fickle and fragile.
Sadly, some miss the message of Christmas thinking when they finally have
their life together, when they have become “perfect,” then God will love them.
But Mary’s Son comes to us to love us as we are—that is the power of the Incarnation.

Like a mother, God is not going to wait until we are full-grown in our faith and
mature in our love before loving us, but instead simply loves us as we are.
God loves us because we are his, we belong to Him.

In Christ Jesus, born of Mary, we have become his adopted sons and daughters.

Can we live during this new year from this our truest identity,
of being beloved sons of daughters in Christ?

Because if we choose to do so, if we choose to live as beloved by God,
we will be able to love others as they are, with Jesus’ help.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi