You have been told, O mortal, what is good…
do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Epiphany. God reveals himself in an infant, born in the small little town of Bethlehem. Magi come from the east searching for this newborn king of the Jews. In her reflection in Celebration Patricia Sanchez asks the question, “how might we express our gratitude for such a gift? What gifts have we to offer God, the giver of all good gifts?
God has given us all we are and all we have. Anything we may present is merely an acknowledgement of who God is and who we are before God. In that spirit, the nations streaming toward Jerusalem brought gold and frankincense (Isaiah). These gifts were to acknowledge the presence of the one God in Jerusalem and the desire of the nations to join Israel in offering their homage. What Isaiah envisioned, Matthew and the author of the letter to the Ephesians saw as fulfilled in Jesus. Moreover, the author of Ephesians understood that it was his mission to make known, to promote and to foster the unity of all peoples in Jesus. As for the magi, their gifts and their homage were representative of all the gentile world, who were and are, by God’s plan, intended to share equally in the salvific gifts of God.
Given God’s plan, perhaps the best gift we might offer is our daily affirmation of that plan as well as our continued commitment to realizing that plan in our lives, in our world. Today, we no longer use the term “gentile” to refer to others, but if we are honest with ourselves, we do tend to make distinctions about certain people and groups among us. Those distinctions sometimes lead to disrespect, misunderstanding, prejudice and even violence.
Lest we doubt that we ourselves harbor such feelings toward others, we need only substitute any of the following for the peoples and nations referenced by Trito-Isaiah: What if the prophet had written, “All from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Mexico and Honduras will come…dromedaries from Russia and Sudan will come. Muslims and Jews, immigrants and refugees, the poverty-stricken and the unemployed, the sick, the hungry and the homeless…all will come…”? Will we offer them the same welcome that each could receive from God? Will we reach out in love? Will we have mercy? Is this also a gift that each of us might offer to God and to one another?
Last month Pope Francis declared the beginning of a Holy Year of Mercy…“God’s mercy is not an abstract idea. It is a concrete reality, as real as that of a mother or father, moved to the very depths out of love for their child” (Misericordiae Vultus #6). This love has been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life…Jesus revealed the nature of God, who never gives up until the wrong has been forgiven and overcome with compassion and mercy…we enter into this year of mercy with open hearts, open arms and mercy for all without distinction and without limit.
This coming Thursday children from our parish will be celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. Keep these children in your prayers as they now prepare to receive the Eucharist for the first.