Sunday, January 3, 2010

Prayers for today: The Lord and ruler is coming; kingship is his, and government and power. (Malachi 3: 1; 1 Chron 19: 12)

Father, you revealed your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star. Lead us to your glory in heaven by the light of faith. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,...


Father of light, unchanging God, today you reveal to men of faith the resplendent fact of the Word made flesh. Your light is strong, your love is near; draw us beyond the limits which this world imposes, to the life where your Spirit makes all life complete. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

St. Genevieve (422-512)

St. Genevieve was born about the year 422, at Nanterre near Paris. She was seven years old when St. Germain of Auxerre came to her native village on his way to great Britain to combat the heresy of Pelagius. The child stood in the midst of a crowd gathered around the man of God, who singled her out and foretold her future sanctity. At her desire the holy Bishop led her to a church, accompanied by all the faithful, and consecrated her to God as a virgin. When Attila was reported to be marching on Paris, the inhabitants of the city prepared to evacuate, but St. Genevieve persuaded them to avert the scourge by fasting and prayer, assuring them of the protection of Heaven. The event verified the prediction, for the barbarian suddenly changed the course of his march.

The life of St. Genevieve was one of great austerity, constant prayer, and works of charity. She died in the year 512. She dressed in a long flowing gown with a mantle covering her shoulders, similar to the type of garments the Blessed Mother wore. One of the symbols of this saint is a loaf of bread because she was so generous to those in need.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew (2:1-12)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. In Bethlehem in Judea, they replied, for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’ Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matthew 2: 1-12)

The Christian mission
(Reflection by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

We are now in the special liturgical time of Christmas when we think of the gift to the world of our Redeemer. A Redeemer has come and is now always to be with us. As we put ourselves back in those first days at Bethlehem, we think of how the promise of God was now fulfilled. God had promised his chosen people that he would send to them a Messiah who would shepherd his people. He would be the good shepherd long predicted. And now the Messiah had come. But there was something more. This promised Messiah was not only for God’s own chosen people. He was for all the nations. He was for the world. And this is powerfully suggested in the events recorded in the Gospel. When our Lord was born, it was to Jewish shepherds that the angels announced the news. But the Gospel records that soon after, pagan wise men from the East were led by a star to the promised king. Both groups represented the two worlds, the Jewish and the non-Jewish. Both were to be offered the salvation Christ would bring. It is the whole non-Jewish world, of which all of us are members, that we think of today. When the angels appeared to the shepherds, the whole night sky was filled with light. When the star appeared to the wise men from the east there was less light, but light there was. Both together symbolise the light of the Gospel shining upon all nations, Jewish and Gentile. The star leading the wise men to the infant Jesus was only an external sign leading to him. Faith is the light that enlightens our hearts with the truth of Christ the Redeemer. This light of faith is a wonderful gift from God which we take for granted all too easily. It is this light of faith which has gone out to all the nations, and in many Sunday Mass congregations across the world, numerous nations are represented. They have received the light of faith which we celebrate today, the feast of the Epiphany.

In the second reading, St. Paul, full of joy, is speaking of the secret, long hidden, that through Christ, the Chosen People were now to be given many brothers from among the Gentiles. Through the Gospel, we too share in the blessings of the prophets and the promises and the Messiah. We are all part of God’s Chosen People on the way to salvation. The proclamation of the Gospel is the new star shining in the life of the Church. It is by our faith that we are able to accept it, and it is able to lead all peoples to Christ and the glory of heaven. This is particularly relevant for today. We are called to send the light of the Gospel to the whole world, calling all men and women to follow Christ. We have inherited the role of the wise men who gave a shining example of fidelity in following the star of faith. In the Gospel account, the wise men from the East revealed the coming of Christ even to the Jewish people, whose faith had dimmed. Our life should be like a star leading others to Christ. The faith has been carried through the world and through the centuries not just by missionaries, but by the movement and migration of many peoples. Australia has been greatly enriched by deeply committed Christians from other countries who have made their home among us. We must make sure that our star shines brightly in our families and in society. Let us examine ourselves. Does the light of my faith shine brightly with good deeds, love and charity? Let us call on our noblest impulses to raise high the light of our faith to all. We have a duty to Christ our eternal King. Let us this year make Christian family life shine forth like a star of faith, like the star shining for the wise men.

Let us think of what the Christ Child would say to his disciples years later, just before he ascended into heaven. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore to the whole world and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you till the end of the world.”

A second reflection for the feast of the Epiphany

The Star of Faith
(Reflection by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

The word ‘Epiphany’ means manifestation. We celebrate today the manifestation of our Lord to the first non-Jews who sought out Christ so as to do him homage. This is our feastday, for those wise men represented us. The star the wise astrologers from the east followed was an external sign which supported their faith and led them on to Christ. In our following of Christ we, of course, do not follow an external star. But there is a star within, the star of our faith leading us to Christ. This light of our faith is a most privileged gift of God, of far more value and importance than any signs and wonders of an external kind. Recall how Jesus used to censure his fellow Jews when they kept pressing him for signs. Jesus declared that they would be given only the sign of Jonah, and that was an allusion to his death and resurrection. Our Lord was continually looking for faith and praising it. Faith is a light from God himself. We remember how, when Simon declared to our Lord that he was the Christ the Son of God, our Lord said that flesh and blood had not revealed this to him but the Father in heaven. His faith was a light from God. As we hear the word of God read and preached each time we go to Mass, we must listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit if we are to grow in faith. Faith is the true light of life, and it comes from God and only from God. It is this light that leads to God, as we see in the case of the three wise men who clearly had a form of faith (Matthew 2:1-12). We travel through life following the light of faith in our minds and the light of love in our hearts. What the three wise men did is repeated over and over again in those seeking Christ or seeking to do his will.

But there is a most important implication in this. Today we are not just thinking of the fact that Christ has been given to all humanity, and not just to the Jews. We have a part to play in this. We are called to bring the light of faith to all men and women, a light which calls them to follow Christ. We have inherited the role of the wise men who gave a shining example of fidelity in following this star. Let us notice that the faith of the wise men, lit by their own holy yearning, revealed the coming of Christ even to some of the Jewish people, whose faith had dimmed. Some responded wickedly. Others responded with joy, as did the shepherds, and as did Simeon and Anna following the birth of the Child. Let each of us be aware that our life ought be a star of faith leading others to Christ. The faith has been carried throughout the world, not just by missionaries, but by the movement and the migration of many believers, ordinary lay men and women. Now, hundreds of millions of these stars of faith shine around the world, offering the opportunity to many others to come to know the Redeemer. Let us examine ourselves on this day, the feast of the Epiphany which brings us near the end of Christmastide, and ask, does the light of my faith shine brightly? The light of our faith will not be bright if it does not shine with love and good deeds, especially those good deeds which lead others to Christ. There are so many ways whereby Christ’s faithful may bring the light of faith to others. This faith is above all faith in the Eucharistic Jesus, the Jesus of the sacraments and the Jesus who is the head of the Church his body. Our treasure is the person of Jesus and our faith in him. Let our life’s work be to bring this treasure to the world.

Each of us has a star to lead us to Jesus, and it is above all the star of our faith which is our share in the faith of the Church. It takes us to Jesus who is head of his body the Church. Not only do we have this star as God’s gift, we have the calling to be a star for others, leading them to faith in Christ the Saviour. Let us take up our grand vocation which is to be a light leading to the Light.

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