Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.



Epiphany Quest 2023

The 3 Wise Men by Joseph Christian Leyendecker

The Epiphany of the Lord ~ Sunday 8 January 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass (Mass during the day): I: Isaiah 60: 1-6; Responsorial: Psalm 72; II: Ephesians 3: 2a, 5-6; Gospel: Matthew 2: 1-12

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. This feast is actually the more ancient of the celebrations around the incarnation of our Lord. And while it is always most thought of in the context of the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem it has long also included the baptism of our Lord and the first recorded miracle of Jesus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Epiphany is the sacred and awesome celebration that brings us to focus upon the manifestation of God, in Jesus Christ. It is centered upon these three great revelations of Jesus as recorded in our sacred and spiritual history. We recognize that epiphanies in the magnitude and context of the Gospels were very distinctive and meant for the physical incarnation of Jesus. Yet, as a people of faith, we also can trust the desire of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, to manifest or reveal Himself in and through our lives in these times and places in which we live.

So, should we not ask, What of Epiphany in this time, this year of 2023? To explore that question let us first explore this first gospel epiphany.

The Gospel of Matthew shares the familiar account of the Magi from the east following the star to Jerusalem and on to Bethlehem. It is likely that “the east” refers to what is now known as Iran and Iraq. The journey would have likely followed the fertile crescent for at least 1200 miles. It would have probably taken 4 to 5 months to travel by camel as tradition and historical context would have indicated. To follow a star indicates that these Magi, wise men or kings were well-educated and followers of astronomy and astrology. Their going to Jerusalem shows us they had some awareness of the faith of the Hebrew people. Their meeting with King Herod shows their own status was significant. But their following of the Scriptures and the star to an humble home in Bethlehem reveals an humility and commitment to seek the truth. It is from the first manifestation of the Christ to the nations that we are better able to follow our own quest to grow in the holy love who is Jesus.

So, what of epiphanies now as we begin this new year? Should we just be content to recognize these revelations of God are just for special times, places, and people? Or may we dare to believe that God with us, Jesus, longs to reveal to us and through us His glory, His mercy and love? Looking to the Light of the Living Word, indeed we can know of the longing in the heart of Christ to reveal more and more of God. It will not follow the same path or magnitude as the Magi. For our journey is our own, with God. But our Epiphany Quest will know the same sort of challenges and blessings.

As it was with the Magi so it is for us. To begin they had to follow the star, the light they had and knew. They did not know the Holy Scriptures as the Hebrews did. They followed a way that some saw as wrong. But God uses the light we have and know to bring us ever closer to Him. It is also necessary to see that it is often in the darkness of our life that we will discover that holy star of hope and grace leading us to know God as we never would have imagined. The Prophet in our first reading calls to Jerusalem (the church) to rise and shine as her light has come. The holy pilgrimage to an epiphany must allow that there will be dark nights of the soul.

The Epiphany Quest of our lives also must have faith. It is well and good to see, maybe recognize some light that would guide us closer to God. But it is wasted if that light is not acted upon with faith. The Magi might have been content to write some texts o their observations from Persia. They could have hypothesized what the star meant, to what did it lead? All from the comfort and safety of their homes. But as is always the case God is not going to lead us snuggled down in our comfort zones. However harmful or dysfunctional they might be. God calls us to TRUST, actively in steps of courage into places and worlds we may not know. We will likely not know where God is leading. But our holy Shepherd does. So we follow, we seek, Christ our Light in faith, and love.

It is not always seen but the story of the Magi coming to Jesus, and bringing their gifts is also a powerful lesson in love. It is easy to acknowledge the wise men followed the light they knew to The Light of Christ. It is also evident that great must have been their faith to travel those 1200 miles to honor, and adore The One they did not know. But it must also be seen that within their hearts, hungering for Him, was a love they could not yet understand. To bring such gifts and freely give them to this young child’s parents revealed a longing to give themselves to Him who called them each, to His side. So it is in our own Epiphany Quests. We must allow the call of Love, the call of God, to grow in our own encounters and realizations of He whose love would set us free.

The Magi would be warned in a dream, in a way perhaps unexpected, to return to their homes by another route. The dangers of hate and doubt shown by Herod were very real. We also have no record of how their epiphanies would change their lives. And perhaps that is a lesson for us as well. To see more, the manifestations of the mercy and glory of Jesus is the way of Epiphany. But how, to whom that is shared we only learn as we continue following that Bright and Morning Star who is the Christ.

What epiphanies will we encounter in this coming year? What dark nights of the soul will show to us His holy star of hope and peace? What priceless and powerful revelations of God’s love and design will we experience? It is only as we seek Him, born in Bethlehem, Emmanuel, in our lives and each other that we will learn the answer to Him who calls. It is a glorious quest of Light, Faith, and Love.

“Teach us to recognize the many forms of your Presence in the Church and in one another.” [From the Intercessions from Morning Prayer, Saturday before Epiphany]

The Presence, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh Scotland by A.E. Borthwick

An Epiphany People, The Miracle at Cana of Galilee

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 16 January 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 62: 1-5; Responsorial: Psalm 96; II: I Corinthians 12: 4-11; Gospel: John 2: 1-11

The Miracle at the Wedding at Cana of Galilee

The miracle at the wedding at Cana of Galilee is the first recorded miracle at the hands and words of Jesus. This exciting intervention by God to affect and change natural events is often used as a lesson establishing the sacrament of marriage as Jesus blesses the event and thus establishes it as a sacred act. But this miracle, only recorded in the gospel of John, is about far more than a wedding or the vocation of marriage. This miracle culminates the holy glories of the celebration of the Epiphany.

Epiphany, began with the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus. This was followed by the Lord’s Baptism. The first two events focus upon the revelation of God in, through, and with the Son of God, Jesus. This miracle at the wedding is a manifestation of God’s grace and power through Jesus Himself as His earthly ministry begins. And it is distinct as it embraces more than the Holy Family or Jesus alone. It reveals, through Jesus the Christ, the embrace of humanity into God’s mercy and glory. This miracle in Cana of Galilee reveals the intent and power of God that calls us to be an Epiphany people.

The holy beauty and joy of marriage as a sacred act is truly evident in this event. It is seen that the desires of God to bless this young couple, and hence other marriages are displayed in the union of a man and a woman in the sacrament in holy matrimony. This vocation is very much an holy estate. Sacramental marriage as shared by the Church is about a distinct relationship and the graces associated with that vocation. But this miracle is about far more than marriage. It is about all who would seek God and the shared vocation to be an Epiphany people in our hearts and in our relationships.

Our Gospel account of this miracle concludes with the words: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” This experience occurred at a wedding. But it involved far more people than a bride and groom. This brings us to wonder, Who are the people of this epiphany? The story tells us that at this wedding party, with the celebration well underway they were running out of wine. What would be an humiliation for the groom and bride is about to quench all joy. It is in this setting we first meet the Epiphany people.

Mary the mother of Jesus has become aware of the problem. As a good Jewish woman she cannot allow this travesty of hospitality to occur and as a good Jewish mother she takes charge. She tells Jesus of the problem with an unquestioned expectation that he will do something. We then are shown a glimpse of the humanity of Jesus. He tells her: “My time has not yet come.” Jesus knows that with this public manifestation of his power the course of his life is revealed and set. Mary simply tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” With this simple, holy dialogue we are brought into the realm of an Epiphany people.

The actual miracle at Cana, while at a wedding does not directly involve the married couple. They might well have been unaware of the celestial drama that was unfolding in their midst. This first miracle of Christ does not involve the well-placed or mighty. It involves the servants. As our first reading proclaims the Presence and glory of God will be revealed to the poor, the outcasts, those on the fringes. It is an important lesson for us that to be a people of God’s glory revealed we need to be a people of humility. The Magi, seeking a newborn King found him in an humble house in a little Judean village. The revelation at Christ’s baptism came, not in some holy pristine fountain or spring but in the humble waters of the Jordan river. And the lesson continues. This miracle is shared with humble servants who would not have dared to assume to experience such a manifestation of God’s grace.

Perhaps we should listen to God’s Holy Spirit and realize we have neither the faculties nor the power to decide how or where God will bless and manifest the graces of mercy He alone can bring to a soul or to relationships. It is important to note no mention is made in this miracle of the bridal couple asking, or praying to God for help. They, often like us, were probably unaware of the needs they faced. But God, in His kindness allowed the saintly Mother of Jesus to be aware of their dilemma. May we learn to thank God, His angels, and saints for their unseen or unheard help for us in our lives. May we also grow in that same role of praying for the needs that others may not realize or that simply cannot bear alone. It is a very real grace of an Epiphany soul to seek God’s blessing for the needs of others.

To grow in our relationship in God’s Kingdom as a people sharing His witness of the power and holy glory, to be an Epiphany people we must allow ourselves the humble, holy gift of growing in our relationship with God. We must, like Mary and Jesus, dialogue, talk, we must pray, and listen to God. It is not a luxury but a necessity that we be a people who know and listen to His Word. We must, as Mary instructed, ” Do whatever He tells you.”

But there is another part of this miracle we must experience. The water and the wine of this very first miracle of the earthly ministry of Jesus foretell of the water and wine that will be shared at the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry. During the Mass at the preparation of the cup, there is a private prayer said by the priest (or deacon). The words are said: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” In this holy and joyful miracle, we are given the hope and promise of the Body and Blood which will be given for all who believe. In the Eucharistic prayer, we see the Holy Spirit change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus at the words of Jesus. In this first miracle, we see the Words of Jesus change the water to wine for the feast to be celebrated. And in both holy events, it is in the humble place of faithful obedience we witness the very best of God provided.

May we be and better become an epiphany people as we anticipate and participate in God’s grace and glory!

An Epiphany People ~ For the greater glory of God.

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