"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

God Is Love: The Epiphany of the Lord


I
want to start by talking about my dad. He came into the world as a result of an unwanted pregnancy. His biological mother was labelled as disgrasiada—disgraced. While still in his mother’s womb, my father was perceived as a threat to the entire family’s name and honor. As soon as he was born, he was separated from his biological mother to be registered as a legitimate son of another couple. They did not want my father to be raised by a single mother. I shared this story because in my own contemplation of the Epiphany of our Lord, I imagined what could have possibly happened to Jesus. Here is what could be considered the most painful for both Joseph and Mary. They embarked on a long and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered in Joseph’s town of origin following a census ordinance from Emperor Caesar Augustus. When they arrived, it is very hard to believe that Joseph was not welcome in his own town of Bethlehem. Why was it that they could not find a descent lodging where Mary could give birth safely? If this is hard to swallow for us, how much more for Joseph. The most probable cause for this was Mary’s mysterious pregnancy. Jewish families took pride in righteous living such that when Joseph took in a wife who was already with child that was not his, it did not sit well with Joseph’s clan living in Bethlehem. Not only did the holy family become migrants, but also refugees in their own hometown. The only place where they were welcomed was the place occupied by livestocks—the manger. We do not read this from any of the gospels, but we must read between the lines. It helps sometimes to do this in order to bring into the open what is in the heart of the biblical characters. In my contemplation, I asked, “Did it cross Mary’s or Joseph’s mind to send the child Jesus to be with a wealthier couple?" Thank God Mary and Joseph did not do that. Thank God, the Magi, Simeon or Anna did not think of proposing to Mary and Joseph to adopt the baby Jesus when they learned about Mary’s giving birth to the promised Savior in a dangerous manger.

Second point, the Epiphany is to show to the world the truth about Jesus’s identity as a light to the world. But what kind of light is this? In Jesus’s genealogy we see what kind of blood line he came to embody. It is not a perfect one. The life-threatening circumstances that Mary and Joseph had were shared too by a number of Jesus’s ancestors. We just think of the journey King David had. Epiphany is not to show to the world a perfect, seamless or flawless identity. Jesus as a light to the world means where there is light there are shadows. It is not perfection, but connection. Jesus came to interconnect and unite everything through His Incarnation. A new heaven and a new earth. Hence, Jesus truly becomes our Redeemer. But we need to acknowledge and embrace our own shadows. Jesus started being redeemer by embracing the shadows in his family. Let us not romanticize too much, when Jesus was born it did not remove all the dangers and threats to the lives of people around Jesus. But for these people who accepted Jesus in their lives, they were the first ones to be saved by Jesus’s light. We need not look far away. Start within one’s own shadows in the family. The shadow is the one thing common that we have with Mary, Joseph and Jesus, with the shepherds, the Magi in their endless search for the Savior. It means that to have shadows is not only okay, but we will discover the newborn Christ-child through our shadows. It is not perfection, but connection. Besides, if my own father had not been born no matter how shady and disgraceful I would not be born too. Thanks to the shadows of my parents and because of it I have been connected now to Jesus’s light and I must accept and embrace. Accepting the shadows means standing by the light shining from the Child Jesus and not being afraid. As you look to where your shadows are cast you will never miss the light that radiates from the Child Jesus.

Third point, is the theme of all the First Readings during the week after Epiphany Sunday, which are all lifted from the First Letter of John. The theme is "God is love." This letter is the inspiration of the very old song Ubi Caritas, which says, “Where there is true love, God is present there.” We will hear these words being chanted during the Washing of the Feet Maundy Thursday Liturgy. Let me quote the first verse,
Where true charity is dwelling, God is present there. By the love of Christ we have been brought together: let us find in him our gladness and our pleasure; may we love him and revere him, God the living, and in love respect each other with sincere hearts.
This first verse alone already summarizes what the Christ-child has come to do, i.e., to dwell in each other’s heart in the name of love. This is not the only time God loves, He already loved us first since the beginning of time. Thursday after the Epiphany First Reading says “Beloved, we love God because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother (and sister)” (1 Jn 4:19). By loving us this way he came to unite all of us, gather all of us into one with God. No one is excluded. If we want to do great things, and do magis, start from bothering to love. There is a quote that says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In the same thought, Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” In short, darkness will prevail if there is no one who will bother to love. Thank God Mary and Joseph bothered to love and did something even out of the little that they had but out of that little the whole world changed. The pandemic will come and go. COVID variants will come and go. But the invitation is to stay in God’s love, to remain in God's love. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ

Comments

  1. Thanks po for this sharing, Fr. Jom.. I ❤️ it! 😉
    Truly, in the end, only love remains... We only have to again and again find the true meaning of love... Have you tried replacing the word LOVE by JESUS in the "Love Chapter" (1 Cor. 13)?
    I'm doing it always especially when at times love is so hard to define...
    GBU always... TC!

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    1. Thanks too for sharing how you pray 1 Cor 13! GBU!

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  2. The shadow shows the position of the sun. Embracing our shadow leads us closer to true " SUN", Christ who makes us whole and healed to live and love as He willed. GBU!

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    1. Thank you for that wonderful parallelism with the sun! I am reminded of the sundial. My hometown, Tagudin Ilocos Sur (Northern Philippines) keeps the oldest surviving sundial built in 1818 and it is the shadow that tells the time of the day through pointing. But the sundial needs the sun and as you have said it is like the light of Jesus Christ. We are being led to come closer to the source of light, albeit, we stand beside our shadows. GBU!

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