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The Journey of Epiphany

In Memory of Pope Benedict XVI

We join the whole Church and many others who have been touched by the life, ministry, and death of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (1927-2022). Born on Holy Saturday, as the hope of resurrection dawned, and dying on the last day of the year, Pope Benedict’s life was lived always in the atmosphere of faith in Jesus Christ.

So much will be remembered about his witness to the Gospel in challenging times, but I remember one particular moment as a student in the seminary – holding his crosier when he celebrated one of the Lenten Station Masses for the English speaking faithful at San Giorgio in Velabro, an ancient, small – and very chilly – church in Rome. At the time, he was prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and had a reputation as a strict, impersonal, and logical theologian. I was surprised to find him personable, grateful, and genuinely warm to a few young American seminarians he had never met before and probably would not see again.

Despite his unsurpassed intellect and theological depth, his apostolic courage and dedicated ministry as priest, bishop, and pope, it is that kind and gentle smile and personal faith that come back to me. Whatever your memories, we pray for his eternal rest, and for Bishop Kettler’s nearing retirement and Bishop-elect Neary’s service to the same Gospel in our midst.

The Journey of Epiphany

The Solemnity of the Epiphany commemorates the revelation of Christ, the Son of God, to the nations as the Savior of the World, symbolized by Matthew in the “Magi from the East.” We are among the fruits of that harvest of grace – “Gentiles” in Gospel terms, those called to belong to Christ in the New Covenant.

The chronology of Epiphany is revealing. While the Gospels do not give us detailed, daily news of the Holy Family, Matthew suggests that their discernment of the star and their journey to follow its guidance took perhaps many months: “on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother” (Matthew 2:11). Matthew mentions a house, not the cave with the manger; and even more telling, Herod’s jealousy leads him to kill all the boys two years old and younger in and around Bethlehem. Certainly a newborn can be distinguished from a two-year old, even with royal envy. So we do not know how long they traveled, it is likely they were not there with the shepherds as our manger scenes often depict.

Why does that matter? Because Epiphany is not only about the universality of salvation; it is also about the journey we must make to find the Lord, led by faith in what is promised but not yet seen. How long that trip may be, what obstacles we will encounter, what wrong turns we may take, who will be our companions in travel from time to time, we cannot fully know. Yet if we have a goal in mind, a destination, we persevere in making our way.

And when we feel lost or out of place, the kindness of strangers is especially welcome. This is the insight behind the Minnesota bishops’ connection in recent years between Epiphany and the question of the migration of peoples … not only those we see in our communities of different nationalities and beliefs, but many who are also displaced by war, natural disaster, political unrest, and the search to provide for the needs of their families. We think especially this year of the people of Ukraine, but there are dozens of conflicts and crises around the globe that displace persons and create hunger, violence, and fear. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were themselves part of this movement of peoples, as Matthew tells us: “When [the Magi] had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2:13- 15).

We are among the “Gentiles”; descendants of immigrants; followers of Jesus, the Light of all Nations. All of these come together and inspire us to strive to journey towards the Father’s House, together. Is it always easy? No. Do we always know the way? No. But we that faith’s light may always guide us. In this time of Eucharistic Revival, we deepen our awe in the ongoing manifestation or “epiphany” of Jesus among us at every Mass and in each tabernacle. Like that first revelation of God’s glory in Christ, the divine Presence was seen not directly with human eyes, but by the light of faith. So it remains: Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, and we see beyond the appearances to know the risen Lord.

Blessing of the Home with Epiphany Chalk

It is a very old custom on Epiphany to bless chalk that is then used to mark the homes of the faithful. This blessing asks God’s protection upon the home and its members, and upon all who visit.

For the blessing, use the chalk to mark the following symbols over the doorway(s) of the home: 20 + C + M + B + 23

The numerals of the year flank the first letters of the traditional names of the Magi who presented their gifts to Christ: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. These symbols are separated by the cross, the key Christian symbol of our redemption. The letters C, M, B are sometimes also taken to be shorthand for the Latin phrase Christus Mansionem Benedicat, or “may Christ bless this dwelling.”

If you have blessed chalk from previous years, you can certainly use it for the blessing.

Change in Saturday Mass Time at SFX

Just a reminder that beginning next weekend, January 14, the Saturday Mass at St. Francis Xavier will change to 4:00 p.m., with confessions beginning at 3:00 p.m. The other Mass times in our ACC remain as before. In addition, confessions at St. Stephen on Saturdays will change to 6:30 p.m. (before the 7:00 p.m. Mass, rather than afterwards). Thank you for your flexibility.

Fr. Tom

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