I wanted to wish each of you a Blessed Epiphany. Epiphany is a much bigger feast in the Christian East and is typically the day when Christians exchange gifts. Even in the West, in countries like Spain, there are huge processions of the three kings through the city streets. In most countries, Epiphany is still celebrated on January 6th , the Twelfth Day of Christmas! Historically, in the Latin Church, there was an Octave of Epiphany. In some respects, we still celebrate this as we continue the Christmas Season through the Baptism of the Lord. When Christmas ends, we will return to “Ordinary Time” or “Time through the Year”; however, prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the Church counted the weeks after Epiphany. The point is that Epiphany is a great feast for the whole Church.
Epiphany means manifestation, revelation, or sudden appearance. What struck the first
Christians about Christ’s birth was not so much stories about a babe in a crib with shepherds and angels milling around, or magi from the East paying homage, rather it was the sudden appearance of God in our everyday world. In the original observance of the “Epiphany’s” early Christians went to the core meaning of the Incarnation. They celebrated God made man, his manifestation in our midst.
This manifestation had several facets. Beyond God made man at Bethlehem, Christians
celebrated God’s manifestation to all the peoples of the world, represented by the magi. They
celebrated also the divine manifestation of the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism, announcing, “This is my Son, the Beloved, my favor rests on him.” These aspects of the divine appearance in our world were packed into the celebration of a single feast called the Epiphany. Eventually, they were made into separate celebrations: Christmas recalling the birth; Epiphany recalling the homage paid by kings; and, today’s feast celebrating the Baptism of the Lord. They all belong to the Christmas season.
God’s glory is revealed to us in the weakness of a child and in Christ’s submission to John in the
River Jordan. It will be more fully revealed in the Cross and Resurrection. As we approach the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we reflect on our own baptism. In baptism, we committed ourselves to rejecting Satan and all his evil works and all his empty promises. We professed our faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has revealed Himself. We promised to leave behind our old way of living and to live in the freedom of the children of God.
Have we kept our baptismal promises? I have always found it useful to renew the promises of
my baptism daily. This practice demands an act of the will. Each day we can recommit ourselves to the path of discipleship. At one point in my life, I even taped the promises to my mirror and would look at them when brushing my teeth!
In baptism, we were called to holiness and incorporated into the Church. The understanding of
the “Church” as or as a people “gathered together by the unity of the Father, the Son and the
Holy Spirit” helps us rediscover the Church’s “holiness” understood in the basic sense of belonging to Him who is in essence the Holy One, the “thrice Holy” (cf. Is 6:3). Everyone, especially are young people, is looking for a place to belong. To profess the Church as holy means to point to her as the Bride of Christ, for whom he gave himself precisely in order to make her holy (cf. Eph 5:25-26). This objective gift of holiness is offered to all the baptized.
But the gift in turn becomes a task, which must shape the whole of Christian life: “This is the will
of God, your sanctification” (1 Th 4:3). All the Christian faithful, of whatever state or rank, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity. There are numerous opportunities to grow in holiness on the horizon: the St. Ignatius Women’s Retreat next weekend; the Welcome Weekend for Men (Christ Renews His Parish); the two-day mission with Immaculée Ilibagiza; and the study of The Risk of Education. I invite all parishioners to take advantage of these opportunities to grow in holiness.
Baptism and Mission. As Christmas draws to a close, Jesus’ public ministry begins. After His
baptism, Jesus began His ministry by healing the sick and casting out demons. He comes to defeat the enemy and to establish His Kingdom. Throughout history, humanity had been powerless to defeat the strong man, but now through the sending of the Beloved Son into the world, the strong man is overcome – not through force but by humility.
As we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we reflect not only on our own baptismal commitment but on our sense of mission. Many people carry out various apostolates and ministries in the parish as volunteers. All volunteers are invited to come to the 4:30 Mass next Saturday; a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, for which you must RSVP, will follow. To all our volunteers, I say, “Thank you.”
Along with this message, you will find links to each of the above-mentioned events.
God has appeared. He has been manifested to us. The love of God has been revealed and
continues to be revealed especially through our families. Beyond our volunteers, many carry out the mission of the Church as loving husbands and wives and as fathers and mothers, living their call faithfully in the world, whether at home or in the workplace. No matter our state in life, we all have something to contribute to the parish, to the mission of the Church, and the advancement of the Kingdom.
Pope John Paul II wrote that “A vocation is a gift whose purpose is to build up the Church and
increase the Kingdom of God in the world.” This building up of the Church and advancement of the Kingdom has been happening at St. Ignatius for nearly 75 years. 2020 is a big year for St. Ignatius! It marks the 50 th anniversary of the dedication of our church building. As a parish we will begin the preparations for the celebration of our 75 th anniversary as a parish (2021) and the foundation of our school (2022). An Executive Committee has been formed to help plan these celebrations, but many parishioners will be invited to be involved in subcommittees and in planning events.
We hope that these years will help us to have a renewed sense of baptism and mission, as well
as to arouse gratitude in our hearts for all that God has done. Since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity, or to be a mediocre parish. God has called us to greatness! He has called us to set the world on fire!
Together, let us manifest God’s love in the world, for once we have experienced an “Epiphany”
we cannot go back to the way things were. Yes, Christ makes all things new!