1. Isaiah 60, 1-6
- The prophet
begins: Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! The words recall the heady days during Solomon’s
reign, when Jerusalem was a city of renown and the whole Middle East paid its respects. After the people
returned from exile and their city was in fearful disrepair, the prophet reminded them of their special calling.
The holy city has not yet attained its full potential, he says; to repeat a famous phrase, “You ain’t seen
nothing yet.” Jerusalem is being called to show forth the glory of the Lord for
all the world to see.
- Nations shall walk by your light.
Let me rehearse so that I may reflect that brilliant and spectacular light in my own speaking of the word.
The days of the kingdom have ended, but even greater days lie ahead for a people whose God is victorious and vindicated
in their own renewal.
- Raise your eyes and look about: they all gather and come. Let
me raise my own eyes, and show some of the release of a long-sought homecoming as I read, Your sons and daughters
come from afar. The world is full of refugees, exiles (some in our assembly today) and hostages,
and I will keep them in mind.
- When I reach the names of those cities fabled for their outstanding wealth,
I can say them warmly and proudly: Midian, Ephah, Sheba. Just
like our assembly today, they are proclaiming the praises of the Lord.
- There are many connections between
the prophecy and the Gospel for today. For one, the gold and frankincense brought to the
city in tribute. For another, the kings who walk by your shining radiance.
Jesus, the light of the world, is the supreme fulfillment of the prophet’s vision for Jerusalem.
- Climax: I
find it at the point when I lift my head at Raise your eyes. No longer a dream, it has
become a reality that saints and sinners alike must acknowledge. Even apart from the manifestation of Christ
to the nations, this city is holy to three world religions and draws us all like a magnet.
- Message for our assembly: Let us
not judge by appearances but take pride in the simplicity of our lives, because these are as precious as gold and frankincense
in the sight of God. It is God’s glory that we reflect. As the psalm says, The
Lord has done this and we are filled with wonder.
- I will challenge myself: To become as lyrical as I can in describing
the long procession of the peoples of the world to pay their tribute to our God.
Ephesians 3, 2-3 and 5-6
· Now the apostle celebrates
the revelation of Jesus Christ to the whole world.
· The mystery revealed
by the Spirit: The Gentiles are co-heirs in Christ Jesus.
has now been revealed. That powerful word now has lost none
of its timeliness. The apostle’s message remains valid as long as we repeat these words.
look upon the congregation as I read, all of us Gentiles. And I keep in mind how far we must go to break
down the barriers between us. The passage declares that we are members of the same body and co-partners
in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel. That was the apostle’s ministry but it
should equally be ours.
- Again the subservience of this translation to the official Latin version should not throw
me off stride. That one word promise is filled with multiple meanings (I think of how
Paul contrasts it to law in Romans) but – I guarantee you – it will not be heard the way the apostle meant it
(What was that? What did Christ promise us?), if anyone hears it at all. Judicious pauses
may bail us out again. I will make one right after ‘Jesus.’
- Climax: The Gentiles are now co-heirs
in Christ Jesus. The weight of this truth may already have been lost by the time Ephesians was
written, as Gentiles flocked into the assemblies of believers and outnumbered the Jews. By today it has
overshadowed the apostle’s assumption in his statement: that they are co-heirs with the Jews. I can
remind my listeners, by the way I say ‘co-heirs,’ that we should pray for a realization of this shared heritage
among Christians and Jews.
- The message for our assembly: We continue in the age of evangelization. Salvation is the destiny
of every person, not just those inside this building.
- I will challenge myself: To bring out the rich meanings that will be lost if I
read too quickly and without understanding. In other words, I will strive for an active interpretation
of the passage.
Gospel. Matthew 2, 1-12
- I have a complete story here,
though veiled in some mystery. That makes me more eager to tell it with wonder as well as understanding.
- Matthew is showing how
the magi from the east are fulfilling the ancient prophecies, as they follow the star of wonder, come to
worship the newborn king and offer him their precious gifts.
- Matthew also shows that they do not behave like Herod or other earthly kings,
who became greatly troubled. On the contrary, they were overjoyed at seeing the
star. Those in power can ascertain the truth – in Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it
has been written – but often feel threatened by it. Those in power let their inferiors do
their dirty work for them: Go and search diligently for the child. Those with sincere
heart, like the magi, set out themselves and are not ashamed to prostrate themselves
and do him homage.
- There is a wealth of themes before me, and I will be consistent
in those I choose to emphasize. I am impressed especially by the sincerity of the magi and their persistence
in the search. Finally, I am moved by their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, only
partly an echo of the first reading.
- I also hear a different opinion from Matthew about telling
the good news. The magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.
- Climax: The star
came and stopped over the place where the child was. The search has reached its end and the child
for our assembly: T. S. Eliot called their journey “a hard coming.” What does it take for someone
to endure hardship and ridicule in this cause?
- I will challenge myself: To contrast the complexity and double-dealing of the king’s
court in Jerusalem, with the simple joy of the magi. We know no more explicitly about them except their
To the Eucharist: Do we bring the gift of
ourselves to the table today? What a rich and overflowing table of gifts would we see if we did!