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Epiphany January 5, 2020

On this day we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord.  Matthew’s gospel tells of “magi from the east” searching for the new-born child about whom they say “We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  While the scriptures don’t actually tell us how many magi there were, in fact, tradition has overwhelmingly spoken of three, because three specific gifts are mentioned:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.  It appears that these gifts were common gifts for the accession of a king in the ancient world, and so Matthew is using the narrative to introduce us to the “anointed one” of God, the mashia, or Messiah in the Hebrew, or the Christos, the Christ, in Greek.  The gifts are intended to tell us something of who Jesus is understood to be for us.  The scholar Origin, who lived at the turn of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, spoke of the gifts in this way:  "gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God."  The gold needs little explanation. Myrrh was an ancient embalming oil, and so acknowledges the humanity and death of Jesus.  The frankincense was burned in worship and symbolic of the divinity of Jesus.  In any event, the purpose of the gifts was “proclaiming the praises of the LORD,” as we read in today’s first reading from Isaiah.

Here at Our Lady of Lourdes, many centuries later, it occurs to me that a reflection on the gifts can be helpful in discerning how God shows himself to us in our age. How we are gifted, how we share our gifts with others, both individually and as a community, can be revelatory for us, can be something of an epiphany.  It can help us understand something of who we are with and for one another, and for God, as well as helping us to understand something of who God is for us.  Looking back on the past year I find myself considering something of the gifts with which we have been blessed as a community. 

Operation Lourdes” continues to underscore our commitment to those less fortunate than ourselves.  I love that in this particular ministry, absolutely everyone can be part of it.  I can bring my travel-size toiletries, or a pair of socks and leave them in the collection bin at church, or I can help put the care bags together, or I can collect some bags from church and bring them to share with the homeless.  good people who facilitate the organization of this outreach are a certain blessing for our community, and everyone who participates witnesses to the care and the compassion of God in our world in real and concrete ways. 

Adding a Mass to our Sunday schedule is not something I would have anticipated as pastor when I first arrived here.  The growth of our 1:30PM Sunday mass in Spanish has seen some amazing things happening in our community.  Apart from a whole new group of people worshipping among us, we also find a whole new group of leaders in the community, rising to service of one another and in praise of God.  Along with this development we find ourselves growing in other areas also, in that praying in Spanish also brings us to celebrate more sacraments in Spanish and to provide more opportunities for growing in the faith for those whose first language is Spanish.  Celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Las Mañanitas, and Las Posadas were occasions of great joy.  The challenges presented by this growth are not insignificant, but God is good, and we are richly blessed with some amazing leaders who selflessly share their gifts for the good of the community. 

Our Annual Fall Festival might seem like an unlikely candidate for mention in this context, but here too I recognize the amazing goodness and grace of God.  The leadership and incredible sharing of gifts on the part of a core group of leaders makes possible the outpouring of volunteerism and hard work that makes our Festival the incredible experience that it is.  Every year brings its challenges (it was a touch windy this year) and watching everyone rise to the occasion and transcend the immediacy of the moment and of the self for the good of all, is always a grace. 

Tuesday Morning Prayer Group continues to meet most Tuesdays during the school year, affording families a unique experience of praying together.  Families of Faith meeting on Sunday mornings and Wednesday afternoons has grown to be a most-appreciated blessing in the lives of so many of our families, with young people and their parents and other family members all growing in faith together.  Our recently formed Filipino Association is another sign of God’s grace unfolding in our community, and as it grows to become part of the fabric of our parish, God’s blessings will surely follow.  Again, a dedicated group of men and women provide an example of leadership and a sharing of gifts for the good of the many.

These are but a few of the immediate reflections on this past year that remind me of how incredibly generous God is toward us in our blessings as a community of faith.  All of these blessings come to us in the flesh of men and women who commit themselves to service of their neighbors, for the good of our family of faith, and in praise of God.  We are, all of us, invited to be “gift-bearers” for the community, to put flesh and blood on the blessings of our generous and self-giving God. 

May God bless each and every one for their goodness and generosity, now, and through the coming year.

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