Sunday, January 3, 2016

Reflections for Epiphany Week, Part 1

Monday – A Prophecy Fulfilled

Jesus' ministry was just beginning. He had been baptized by John in the Jordan river. He had experienced temptation in the desert and defeated the enemy. Now it was time to spread the Good News in earnest. 

We might think that Jesus would go right to the center of Jewish life first, straight to Jerusalem. But He didn't. Instead, after hearing of John's arrest, Jesus went north into Galilee, a region traditionally belonging to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali and now populated by many Gentiles. 

Jesus certainly had His reasons. His disciples, after all, would be Galilean fisherman, and He needed to collect them from their homes and gather them to Himself. Further, there was a prophecy to fulfill. Isaiah had long ago predicted that the people of Galilee, who “sit in darkness,” would see “a great light.”

Indeed, since the ten northern tribes had been deported from the region centuries before, Galilee had been “a land overshadowed by death.” But now, light and life had arisen in this little backwater place. Jesus had arrived. Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, the One Who would save the world from sin and restore humanity's relationship with God, was preaching His Gospel and proclaiming, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

What's more, Jesus didn't announce His ministry with words alone. He accompanied His teaching with miracles, healing the sick and chasing out demons wherever He went. He was meeting the people where they were, shining His light into their bodies and spirits and preparing them for the depths of His message. 

“[T]he people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” The power of darkness and death was being broken as the Light, Jesus, fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy and began His ministry of life and love.

Tuesday – God Loves Us

It should be so obvious, so commonplace, so sensible. God loves us. But how often do we really reflect on that fact? And, more importantly, do we believe it? 

In his first letter, St. John shows us exactly how much God loves us: “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through Him.” God would not have had to do that. Human beings sinned. We turned our backs on God and went our own way. We refused His love. 

But God refused to give up on us. He loved us so much that He “sent His Son as expiation for our sins.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God made Man, died for us. He suffered the agonies of the Cross for us. He freely and even gladly gave His life that we might be freed from our sins and enter into eternal life. God died that we might live. That's how much God loves us. 

Wednesday – Walking on Water

Imagine that you are one of the disciples in today's Gospel. You've just witnessed Jesus feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. Now you are in a boat, traveling across the Sea of Galilee. The last time you saw Jesus, He was heading up the mountain to spend the night in prayer.

The sea is rough, and the wind is whipping around you. You are still far from shore and getting rather nervous. Much of the night has passed, and dawn is approaching. You hope that you will soon reach your destination because your arms are aching from battling the waves. 

Then you see something that makes you nearly fall out of the boat. It's Jesus. He's walking on the water, coming toward you. He's so calm and peaceful and beautiful, but you are terrified. You think you must either be imagining things or seeing a ghost. Your fellow disciples have seen Him, too, and they're yelping in fear. 

At first it seems that Jesus might walk right past you, but then He turns and comes near your boat. “Take courage,” He says to you and your startled companions, “it is I, do not be afraid!” You feel your heart rate drop as Jesus smiles gently at you, and you try hard to stop shaking. Jesus climbs into the boat, and immediately the wind calms down. You aren't afraid anymore, but you are completely shocked. You can't explain what just happened, but you know that after what you just saw, you will never be the same again.

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