Sunday, 6 January 2013

Happy Epiphany!

It's the twelfth day of Christmas (although with all the media hype leading up to Christmas it seems to feel like it's lasted an awful lot longer and Christmastide doesn't actually finish until January 13th) and the day we celebrate the three wise men coming to worship the Christ child, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

I learned something new about this feast earlier this week (and I do so love learning new things); the word Epiphany means appearance. You may well have already known that but I'd never come across it before. It brought home the significance of the light appearing in the sky and the magi travelling hundreds of miles to follow it, of the light mentioned in Isaiah in the first reading having come and God's glory shining on us and the importance of our witnessing to our faith in everyday life. Today in Rome Pope Benedict spoke in his homily of how bishops (he consecrated four new archbishops today) need to be courageous "How can we not think, in this context, of the task of a Bishop in our own time? The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain. Anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church is on many points out of step with the prevalent way of thinking, even in our own day. Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs. Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous. And this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking. The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves. “Those who fear the Lord will not be timid”, says the Book of Sirach (34:16). The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates." Christ has appeared to us in his incarnation, he comes to us daily in the Eucharist, he is our light which we cannot keep hidden. No matter how hard it may be, no matter how much to world does not want to hear it we need to spread the Good News, to attest to what God has done for us in our lives. Just as much as the bishops need to be courageous, so do we. The magi took a huge risk in travelling so far, they risked so much for something that many would've considered utterly foolish. We are more lucky than they, we have a grounding in faith and don't have to go out on a whim, we have the Church to back us up, to sustain and support us.

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