Epiphany

In the U.S. we celebrate the Epiphany on the Sunday after New Year's while in many other parts of the world it is celebrated today. In the Eastern Churches this day is called Theophany. Both words have to do with the "appearance" or "manifestation" of God. On Christmas we celebrated the birth of the Son of God and with Epiphany we celebrate the manifestation of His divinity.

The Mass readings this week, especially the Gospels which were specially chosen with Epiphany in mind, emphasize the divine power that appeared and worked through Jesus. In Monday's Gospel we heard about the beginning of Jesus' teaching and healing ministry. On Tuesday Jesus showed His divine power by multiplying food so that thousands could be fed. Yesterday Jesus walked on water and calmed the high winds that blew against His disciples' boat. Today we hear Luke's account of Jesus preaching in the synagogue of the town where He grew up, Nazareth, and tomorrow we will hear how Jesus healed a leper.

Our first readings at Mass have been from the First Letter of John and emphasize love. Yesterday we heard that "God is love" and that "perfect love drives out fear." Today's reading begins: "Beloved, we love God because he first loved us. ... Whoever loves God must also love his brother."

Since God is love, the divine activity that was manifested in Jesus involved works of love--teaching, healing, feeding, and calming. John challenges us to not be afraid of God and to really believe in His love, and then to manifest this love to the world. If we really love God, we will love those whom God created and redeemed out of love--the human family, our brothers and sisters. Such universal and self-sacrificing love is humanly impossible. That's why we can only love our neighbor if we love God and are filled with His love. We can only love God and neighbor if we have the Heart of Jesus.

In yesterday's Gospel, when Jesus came walking on water to the boat in which the disciples were struggling with stormy weather, He said to them: "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!" Take courage. The root of this word is "cor" or "heart." Jesus said to the disciples, "Take heart!" He continues to say to His disciples throughout history, "Take heart! Take my Heart! Let my Heart give you courage. Let my Heart and the total love revealed there take away your fears."

We can have courage and can love as God loved us through Jesus because we have His very Heart in the Holy Eucharist.