Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
Epiphany is a Greek word which means manifestation or revelation. Here it means the manifestation or revelation of Jesus to the Gentiles who are represented by the Magi, the Wise Men from the East. Since the First Sunday of Advent the Gospels have been telling us that Jesus is the son of Abraham, the son of David, the Messiah who was promised to the Jews in the Old Testament.
Epiphany tells us that Jesus came not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. Paul states this very clearly in the Second Reading, “…in Christ Jesus, the Gentiles are now co-heirs with the Jews, members of the same body, and sharers of the same promise through the preaching of the Gospel.” In other words, God wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Before his Ascension into heaven, the Lord commissioned his apostles to go into the whole world and make disciples of all nations. Salvation is not through blood but through faith. Blood may be thicker than water but faith is thicker than blood. The Old Covenant began with the faith of Abraham, our Father in faith. The New Covenant began with the faith of Mary, our Mother in faith. Our own Covenant with God begins with our own personal faith.
The Feast of the Epiphany is followed quickly by the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan by John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the link between the Old Testament and the New Testament. He is the last and the greatest of the prophets. We generally think of a prophet as one who predicts the future. Not so. The big concern of the prophet is about the present. How we are living now. And what is going to happen in the future because of how we are living now. John was a prophet, calling the people to change their lives, and to repent and prepare for the coming of Jesus.
As a young man he disappears into the desert to prepare himself for this mission. Then suddenly he appears out of the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People flock to him thinking that he is the Messiah. No, he says, I am not the Messiah. There is one mightier than I who is coming. I am not worthy to loosen his sandals. I baptize with water. He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. He must increase and I decrease.
John’s popularity reaches its climax when Jesus comes to be baptized. John tries to prevent it. But Jesus insists. As John baptizes Jesus the heavens open and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descends upon him and a voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
The next day, John sees Jesus coming and he points him out to the crowd, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He it is whom I said was coming after me.” Now his role is finished. He has prepared the way for Jesus and pointed him out when he came. And now he will give a final witness by martyrdom. He will be the first to lose his head over Jesus.
The Baptism of Jesus
brings to a close the Christmas Season in which we celebrated the Hidden
Life of Jesus. Now we will have six weeks of Ordinary Time until the beginning
of the Easter Season in which we will celebrate the Public Life of Jesus.
Next week our Reading will give an overview of the whole of the Liturgical
Year so that we can participate in the Liturgy more effectively and deepen
our Liturgical spirituality.
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