Tuesday, 5 January 2016
Gifts and the Epiphany
I’ve said time and time again not to believe anything one hears from a pulpit whether it be by a Bishop or Priest, and not to simply believe whatever one reads on some internet site (be by a Bishop or Priest or theologian) because we can all get it wrong. My recommendation is always to buy and study the Catechism, because we can all be too easily astray. For example, we’re singing ‘We Three Kings from Orient are’ at the moment, but how many kings does the bible say there were? It says ‘some’, it doesn’t say three. And it uses the words Magi, rather than kings. So not only do we not know how many Magi there were, we don’t know if they were teachers, kings or just distinguished men. And how old was the Child Jesus when the Magi came? Reckoning by the date the Wise Men gave him, Herod had all the male children less than two years old killed, so Our Lord may have been a two-year-old by the time the Magi visited. And He may not have been lying in a stable manger when they arrived, for Matthew tells us the Magi went into a house, not a stable.
This needn’t disturb us; the scriptures do say wise men visited the infant Jesus bringing three gifts, and stables were often the lower floor of a dwelling, so it may have been the very same building visited by both the shepherds and the Magi. But the actual biblical text compared with our hymn sheets should wise us up to getting to know our Faith well, by getting a Catechism and learning the official, formulated teaching of the Church as set down by the Magisterium over the centuries.
But to turn to the message of this particular Feast of the Epiphany: the romanticism of Christmas with a star in the sky, angels singing ‘Gloria’ and our families and friends exchanging gifts, food and drink, can bring us to miss the message of Christmas -which is one of reconciliation between God and man. God’s gift to the nations is His Son; what is our gift to Him going to be? Well, there are three traditional offerings that we are expected to give God: prayer, fasting and almsgiving; we can also give more time to visiting the sick, the housebound and the imprisoned. But reconciliation between the individual soul and God is only half the story: we need to be reconciled to one another too. So, is there someone to whom you need to say ‘sorry’? Reconcile with them. Is there someone whose reputation you’ve damaged? Restore their reputation in the eyes of those to whom you defamed them.
If this jubilee Year of Mercy is going to achieve anything it must focus on the sacrament of reconciliation, and the celebration God’s mercy celebrated in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. So go to Confession; go regularly (at least once a month) to grow in the grace of reconciliation with God. And feel free –indeed be ready- to challenge the sinful attitudes and actions of those who are engaging in sin; challenge them in order to help them to reconcile their lives to the beauty of goodness and truth. Call them to meet Christ in Confession too. In the Epiphany, God is calling to all men of all nations; let us then give all folk the opportunity of being healed by Christ, the Light of the World.