Reflections on the Readings
January 5, 2014 - The Epiphany of the Lord - Year A
A Light For Everyone
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him."
The Heavens Ring a Noble Theme
In the very beginning, God said, "Let there be light!" Scientists continue to search for this very beginning of the beginning, for the earliest moments of our universe, for that first dawn. They do this by studying supernova which is a powerful explosion of a star transformed by nuclear fusion or gravitational collapse. Astronomers study the properties of the light and energy a supernova emits. This study is done to determine how quickly a supernova moves away from the Earth "which can be used to extrapolate the history of the expansion of the universe," according to American Scientist magazine.
If you start now it will take about 100,000 light years to cross our galaxy. Some of the light emitted thousands of years ago in our galaxy, traveling at 300,000 km per second, leaves behind a star that no longer shines. That light remains visible to be captured by your eye or some other photographic device.
At the University of Delaware is located the command center for the Whole Earth Telescope, and is based at Mount Cuba Astronomical Observatory in Greenville, Delaware. They are interested in the 'dead stars' and enjoy collecting evidence on how they died. According to the University of Delaware website, "the Whole Earth Telescope (WET), a worldwide network of observatories, with its command center at the University of Delaware, periodically focuses on stars of scientific interest in the galaxy's stellar graveyard."
Peering into the heavens is as inspirational today as it was for Magi from the area of ancient Persia. This learned group understood intuitively that:
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day unto day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world
In them he as set a tent for the sun, which comes
forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy. (Psalm 19:1-5)
The True Light Guides us Home
As they 'listened' to the message of the heavens, they prepared to find Him of whom the stars spoke. Guided by their heavenly
wisdom, they desired to pay homage to the New Born King at whose birth the stars rejoiced. They traveled with an Epiphany in their hearts and with their hands full of treasure to honor the Baby they set out to find. Thus these Gentiles were beckoned to come to the Light; a people who were once without a calling or a destiny like Israel are now included. A people who were once not a people are now among the people of God. That's the celebration we embrace today. For we were also outside of the covenant; outside of the hope; outside of the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises - for the Magi, for us, for the life of the whole world Christ was born! We who dwelled in darkness have indeed seen a great Light; for we who were Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body of Christ, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Jesus, the Light of the world, shines for everyone. No one is excluded from finding their way back home. Like a lighthouse, Jesus shines on those trapped in the dark and stormy seas, shining the way with his invitation to come to him and to be safe in his embrace. This is the Jesus of the Church. There is not another Jesus. There is not another Light. The way back home, back to ourselves, to our first love, to our true Father, is possible as we follow that Light.
A Light That Never Dims
Sometimes I want to just stand up and shout, "Here! Right here! See this Light? This is Jesus! He will show us the way home." We can get so wrapped up in our programs and our projects, and our building plans, and fund raising, that the Light can become dim - our true calling to be light bearers - emissaries of the Light.
We celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord to remember that outside of his Light, the world, our world, remains in darkness. When John wrote his Gospel, he began by reminding the Church of the true Light that illumines every person who comes into the world. What does that mean? It means at the very least we are to see our friends and our neighbors, the folks we work with, in the Light of Christ. Jesus shines upon all of humankind to help us see the love he has for all of us. This holy Light draws all people to himself, as it did the Magi, so that all may see their Salvation and believe. It is a Light that darkness cannot quench.
As the Magi entered the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and recognizing the Light before them, they fell down and worshipped him. But what are these gifts? Gifts for the King of Light - Gold to help us remember he is divine; Frankincense for our prayers that rise up in his name; and Myrrh to help us remember that he is also human, and in his flesh he would suffer for us - yet the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome Him! Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com