Archive for the ‘Epiphany’ Category

Epiphany (I am Joseph your brother) 1-8-2023

Friday, January 6th, 2023

Some years ago the Catholic community of Chicago lost one of its
greatest leaders and ministers in Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
Cardinal Bernardin will always be remembered for his great gifts
as a reconciler. In some of the Church’s most controversial and divisive
moments, he was able, in his humble, sensitive and compassionate way,
to earn the trust of liberal and conservative alike, to bring all sides
together, to keep everyone focused on the common call to be disciples of
Christ. A leader among America’s bishops, he steered the bishops’
conference through debates ranging from the Vietnam War to birth
control. When he was wrongly accused of sexual assault by a former
seminarian who later took back his story, Cardinal Bernardin did not
react with anger at the pain and humiliation he endured, but reached out
to his young accuser, forgiving him and praying for and with him. To
everyone in Chicago—Catholic and non-Catholic, believer and
nonbeliever—he would introduce himself simply as “I am Joseph, your
Within 48 hours of learning he was dying of liver cancer, Cardinal
Bernardin shared his ordeal with the people of his archdiocese. He spent
much of the last year of his life personally ministering to people with
cancer—his “parish” of cancer patients and their families numbered over
700 people.
“Yes, I’m sacred,” he said, “but I’m a man of faith. I can look at
death in two ways: as an enemy or a friend. I choose to view it as a
friend. I know that there will be tears, but I am at peace…I have come
to believe in a new way that the Lord would walk with me through this
journey of illness.”
In his life, ministry and final days, Cardinal Bernardin approached
life as a journey to God and with God; reconciliation, compassion and
justice—the very things of God—were the “stars” that guided him.
Cardinal Bernardin, like the magi in today’s Gospel, is a model for us in
our own search for God. On this special Feast of Epiphany I believe we
are all challenged to slow down and check our own bearings on our
life’s journey. Are we headed in the right direction? What stars are
guiding us? I pray that we all will be guided by the stars that guided
Joseph Bernardin. The stars of peace, compassion, mercy, justice and
forgiveness are the unmistakable signs of God within our hearts.
Rest in Peace Joseph our brother.

Epiphany 1-2-2022

Saturday, January 1st, 2022

As a kid I loved watching the three kings – or astrologers or magi
or whatever – getting placed at the crib. Exotic, colorful, mystical… and
now the crib set was complete.
But a few weeks ago someone told me there was someone very
important missing from almost every crib set. “Who,” I asked.
She said, “Herod should be in every crib set because darkness is
never far away in the Christmas story. Darkness is part of how many
people experience Christmas in their homes. And over 2000 years ago
there was the darkness of Christmas Eve, with the shepherds keeping
night watch over their flock, and the appalling dangerous darkness of
King Herod. It was because of darkness and love for those in darkness
that the Light came.”
“Wow,” I thought. She’s right.
Herod started off so good. Brilliant and charming he knew many
languages. He was a high-powered achiever, and his kingdom was filled with many projects that created wealth. But he had a dark side too, and
his dark side, towards the end of his life, seems to have completely taken
over. He killed his favorite wife and at least two of his children (he was
suspicious and paranoid), he is mentioned in connection with the
horrible slaughter of the holy innocents, and when he died he left
instructions that many leading citizens in Jerusalem be slaughtered, so
the population would weep at his passing.
Herod became the proverbial poster boy for cruelty, paranoia,
corrupt living and family grief. What happened to him?
He would not, and then maybe later he could not, do two really
important things with his neck. He couldn’t lift his eyes and look about.
He could not sense the grandeur of the world and of the God of the
world all around him, and take his place as a valued and treasured part of
the whole. He had to be everything, the center of everything. He
couldn’t lift his head higher than what he thought, he felt, and what he
wanted to do.
And second, unlike the magi who prostrated themselves, he couldn’t bow his head and worship something more holy than himself. When you don’t have time to wonder at the extreme largeness of
the world, the universe, human life, other human lives – and the One
who created them all – you get obsessed with your tasks and your way
and yourself – and that’s a recipe for darkness.
And when you don’t spend some time bending, prostrating, and
consciously adoring the One who is greater than you – that is a recipe
for darkness.
And at its worse you turn into a tyrant. Maybe not like King
Herod, but you can be a tyrant in the kitchen, in the home, in the office,
on the road, in church.
We rightly call these Magi the wise men, and maybe wise women.
They took time to lift their eyes and wonder – they saw the star and
Herod didn’t. And they prostrated themselves and did him homage,
offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I hope we will do the

God Within 1-3-2021

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

The congregation was very proud of their beautiful church, which
had stood proudly on the village common for generations.
But, one night just before Thanksgiving, a spark in the heating
system ignited a fire that destroyed the New England clapboard
structure. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the congregation was
As soon as the fire marshal gave the all-clear, the stunned pastor
and parishioners combed the rubble to salvage the few things they could.
Then, interesting things began to happen.
A nearby church — a congregation that the displaced parish had
little to do with before — offered them the use of their religious
education building for services and meetings for as long as they needed
it. Churches from nearby towns offered hymnals and other supplies;
several churches took up a special collection for the congregation At the first service following the fire, the congregation, who were
used to sitting in their “own” places at a comfortable distance from one
another, found themselves sitting side-by-side on folding chairs. After
the service, teams started to form to deal with insurance issues, organize
temporary arrangements for religious education and parish programs,
and to sketch out first plans to rebuild. The pastor tapped the expertise
of everyone in the parish to help — and everyone readily signed on.
Parishioners who knew one another only by name, who had, until then,
exchanged pleasant but perfunctory hellos on Sunday, were now
working together to rebuild not just their beautiful building but the
community they had taken for granted.
And, in their grief and loss that first Sunday morning in their
temporary quarters, they prayed and sang in a way few had ever
experienced before.
In the new journey they had begun as a church, they had
rediscovered the God within. The Epiphany of the Lord is a story about seeking and finding the
God within, the God in our midst. As the magi undertakes a long and
arduous journey by the light of the mysterious star to find the newborn
king (encountering, among other things, a murderous tyrant along the
way), the suddenly churchless parish rediscovers, in their coming
together to deal with the catastrophe, the Spirit of God in their midst.
The Epiphany challenges us to slow down and check our own bearings
on our life’s journey, to focus on the “star” we should follow to make our
lives all that God has created them to be, to fix our lives on the constant,
eternal values of peace, compassion, mercy, justice, forgiveness that are
the unmistakable signs of God within our hearts and homes