Tag Archives: Epiphany

When Did You Get to Know Me?

NathanielThe full readings for today can be found here:

Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1:43-51.

When did you get to know me?

In the name of the living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Several years ago, I travelled to Toronto with my Dominican brothers and sisters for Chapter, our annual gathering. While we were there, I was lucky enough to spend some time at L’Ache, the community founded by Henri Nowen, the great pastoral theologian.
L’Arche is a home for people who face profound mental challenges. While I was there, I met a man named Tom. Tom had Down’s syndrome, but that wasn’t the most important fact about him. You see, Tom was deeply concerned with, one might even argue obsessed with, superheroes. I mean, all of them: Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Ironman, even the Green Lantern.

As I had the chance to talk more with him, I got to see some of his artwork. He showed me one piece that was a little confusing. It portrayed a bearded man wearing what appeared to be a Superman outfit, with his arm around someone who was obviously Tom. I asked him if the other man was Jesus, and he told me that it was. Now, Jesus (or SuperJesus) had his other arm dangling out into space. I asked Tom why Jesus’ arm was just hanging there, and he said, “That’s for you.”

I was gobsmacked. Here was this man, with supposed mental deficits, who had completely grasped a profound theological concept that I had been struggling to live into for years. I asked Tom if there was anything he needed us to pray for, and Tom told me, “I want to be a superhero.” I told him, “Tom, I think you already are, but I’ll pray anyway.”

God is like that. God is sneaky. The divine will jump up and grab you from behind when you weren’t expecting it.

So, in today’s Gospel, we have a wonderful story, a story of calling and wonder and awe. It’s the story of one of my favorite cynics, Nathaniel. But we’ll get to that in just a moment. It’s worth setting the stage.

In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, the day after Jesus is baptized, two of John the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus where he is staying, or where he abides. He answers them, “Come and see.” That day, Jesus calls Andrew and his brother Simon Peter.

Our reading today takes place the next day, as Jesus is returning from Bethany to Galilee. John tells us that Jesus “found” Phillip. Now, John is a fine poet, and he doesn’t use words lightly. While he regularly contrasts light and darkness, he also contrasts the notion of who is lost and who is found. And if you want an interesting spiritual exercise, try putting your own name in that sentence: Jesus found Nancy, or David, or Rilda or Brad, or James, and said, “Follow me.” Listen for Jesus calling your own name, saying “Follow me.”

Now, Phillip goes to his friend Nathaniel, and tells him about Jesus, describing Jesus in fairly glowing terms. He describes Jesus as fulfilling all the hopes of Israel, the man who Moses and the prophets wrote about: Jesus son of Joseph, of Nazareth. That’s a complex description, and we’ll try and unpack it a bit, but there’s something else worth noting. Phillip says “we found Jesus,” although the text says Jesus “found” Phillip. So I suspect that if Phillip did the finding, it was only in following Jesus that he found Him. And perhaps that’s true of us as well: if we want to find Jesus, we have to follow Him.

In response to Phillip’s assessment of Jesus, Nathaniel asks a poignant question: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? The question may reveal Nathaniel’s understanding of the biblical prophecies: the Messiah wasn’t supposed to come from Nazareth. Or his response may reveal a general disdain for that area. Nazareth was a poor, unimportant, hillside village, and it was no place special. We might as well ask whether anything good can come out of Haiti, or El Salvador, or the poverty-stricken countries of Africa. But I think Nathaniel’s question betrays something more troublesome. I think it’s a question born of cynicism, born of waiting for the Mashiach, the Messiah, waiting for God to make things right. I think that kind of cynicism is usually born out of many disappointments, out of hope that has been smothered, out of the rough tragedy of disappointment. Perhaps it’s a disappointment arising because the word of the Lord was rare in those days, too.

But Phillip answers his friend Nathaniel, echoing Jesus’ response the day before when John’s disciples asked Jesus where he was staying. Phillip tells him: “Come and see.” They are warm words, words of welcome and invitation. And as Nathaniel approaches Jesus, Jesus announces: “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” There’s a bit of wordplay going on here. You see, before Israel was the name of a country, it was the name of a man, the name of one of Isaac’s two son’s. But Israel wasn’t the name he was born with; that name was given to him after he wrested with God at Peniel. His name at birth was Jacob, which means the deceiver, the usurper.

Now, in case you doubt that Jesus was directly referring to the story of Jacob and Israel, he returns to the story of Jacob at the end of this Gospel passage. When Jesus tells Nathaniel that he will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man, he’s alluding to the story of Jacob’s ladder. Jacob arose from his dream knowing that he was standing “at the gate of heaven,” the intersection of heaven and earth.

But in today’s Gospel, Nathaniel comes to recognize a new point where heaven and earth intersect: the person of Jesus. Jesus recognizes Nathaniel: tells him he saw him under the fig tree before Phillip called him. And then Nathaniel recognizes Jesus. He says, “Rabbi, you are the son of God and the King of Israel.” This is Nathaniel’s discovery, his epiphany, his confession. And he reveals himself as a true Israelite, one for whom God’s promises were intended.

Like Samuel in the Old Testament reading, Nathaniel didn’t recognize the divine initially. But God knew Samuel, just as Jesus knew Nathaniel. As the Psalmist says, God created their inmost parts; knit them together in their mother’s womb. And ultimately, they both came to recognize the call of the divine upon their lives.

I’m wondering if we can hear the God calling our names in the dark, calling us from under the fig tree. Because I believe each of us are called to be living icons in which God’s presence in the world is revealed. Regardless of what we do for a living, that’s our vocation. Regardless of how well we know God, God has searched us out and knows us. God “traces our journeys and our resting places.”

Sometimes, when the word of the Lord seems very rare, God sneaks up on us and asks us to share in God’s dreams for the world. God calls to us and says, “Come and see,” or “Follow me.” We may hear God calling to us in a sick friend, a neighbor who’s just lost a child, or a homeless person who’s down on their luck. Like I said, the Almighty is sneaky that way. And God can use many voices: dreams, visions, or a man with Down’s syndrome in a superman tee shirt. Amen.

James R. Dennis, O.P. © 2018

 

 

Who’s In Charge Around Here?

Jesus Casting out demon

The full readings for this Sunday can be found  here:

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching– with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. Mark 1:21-28.

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them…”

In the name of the Living God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

Well, good morning, good morning.  And welcome, as we join the Church and find ourselves in the holy season of Epiphany, which our Orthodox brothers and sisters call the Feast of Lights. We celebrate that a great light has come into the world in the revelation of God the Son in the person of Jesus, the Christ. We’ll come back to that in just a moment.

Several years ago, my father passed away. And after the funeral my family gathered for a meal, and when you have that many members of the Dennis family gathered together there is only one choice for the menu: barbeque. Well, I’m sitting there with my aunts and my uncles and my cousins and a big old plate of brisket and sausage, sitting across the table from my no-good brother, Patrick. My younger brother, Patrick. And I have not yet gotten a single bite of brisket, not a single pinto bean, into my mouth when Patrick looked right at me and said, “You know now that Dad is gone, I’m in charge. You know that, right?” Well, I responded to my brother with words that appear nowhere in Scripture.

But, to some extent, I think a couple of our readings today compel us to ask the same question that my brother’s comment raised: Who’s in charge around here?

In the first passage, we hear Moses announcing that God will send the prophets to the Hebrews. It’s worth setting the scene here. This takes place as the Hebrew people are about to enter Israel. They have left their bondage in Egypt, wandered in the wilderness for a very long time, and are on the brink of coming home, to a land of milk and honey, to the place that God had promised to them.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Moses to the Hebrew people. He had shown them a path to freedom, acted as the instrument of justice, shown them the power of God, and stood by them when they had fallen short of God’s intentions. And somehow, on this long journey, he had forged this mixed multitude into a nation, a people. And you’ll remember that when God had something to say to them, the Jewish people said, “No, Moses, you go on up there and find out what He’s got to say and then come down here and tell us.”

And so, I’m sure it troubled them, it filled them with anxiety, when they learned Moses wasn’t coming with them, that he wouldn’t ever come down that mountain. If Moses would not be acting  as the messenger of God, who would? Who’s in charge around here? Because the only thing more frightening than knowing what God wants, the only thing more frightening than hearing the voice of Yahweh, is not hearing it. And so, we come to this passage in the book of Deuteronomy.

God assures the Jewish people that they will know His word through the prophets. And, just like today, there were a lot of voices competing for the attention of God’s people, and some of them were “false prophets.” But we know something about the prophets sent from God. First, they will be raised up from among their own people. The voice of God arises in community, but it’s God’s word, and not our own that we should be listening for. The voice of God tells us to choose life, and not death. It often comes, not in the fire or the whirlwind, but in a still, small voice stirring from within us. This word breaks into our history and shapes history according to the will of God.

You may remember, a couple of weeks ago, we heard the story of Samuel in the Temple, hearing a voice in the night. And because he was a young boy, and because the word of the Lord was “rare in those days,” he didn’t know whose voice he heard, but Eli did.

Like the Jewish people standing at the threshold of a new land, we are called to test the many voices we hear, to listen to whether they bring life, because the Word which was in the beginning always speaks to us of new life with the Father. And like the Hebrews, the best way for us to hear the voice of God is to listen for it.

And for us, that prophet who speaks God’s word, well, we’ve always understood that as Jesus, which brings us to the Gospel today.

In today’s Gospel reading, we find Jesus teaching at the synagogue in Capernaum. Mark offers this story as the beginning point of Jesus’ public ministry. And Mark notes that, unlike the scribes, the people find that Jesus teaches with authority. And what was that authority? I think Jesus’ teaching rang true, not simply because He spoke the truth, but because he was the Truth. In Jesus, there was no separation between what he taught and the life He lived. In him, Israel found the prophet that God promised to raise up from among them.

And then, we come to this strange story of a man there in the synagogue, a man with an unclean spirit. Now, in this passage, as in much of Mark’s Gospel, one of the important themes is about recognizing Jesus. Many of the people who should know him don’t, and many of those who we wouldn’t expect to recognize him do.

In Mark’s Gospel, lots of people are trying to figure out exactly who Jesus is: his family, the religious authorities of the time, the political authorities, his disciples. But this spirit knows: he is the Holy One of God.

And this man with the unclean spirit, shouts out “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” What have you to do with us, indeed? I think it may be one of the most important questions in Scripture, one which we should ask ourselves several times a day. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”

We all know about those unclean spirits. We have seen the demonic forces of alcoholism and addiction shatter lives and tear families apart. We watched as the demonic forces had a field day in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia. We have heard the unclean spirit of greed and craving whispering to us, spreading fear, telling us we may not have enough. We have seen the sex trade reduce God’s children and their bodies to the trinkets of commerce. We have perhaps felt within our lives the demons of rage, or the demons of deception and mendacity, or the unclean spirit of pride. And in each of those instances, the unclean spirit says, “Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with this. This is between you and me.”

You know, when we talk about these events, we say that such people are “possessed.” But I’m not sure we shouldn’t use the word “dispossessed.” Because there comes a point in the struggle with those unclean spirits when there just doesn’t seem to be any room in there anymore for the people we knew, when there’s no room in there for any sort of humanity.

I saw my father struggle for control of his life when alcohol evicted him from himself. And it was only in the last few years of his life, after a long struggle with that unclean spirit, that he began to understand again who he was and what mattered to him. And I have known other folks who lost that struggle, who never regained possession of themselves. And it wasn’t because they were morally inferior, or that they lacked courage. They just never found a way to wrestle back control of their lives.

You see, those unclean spirits always deny the supremacy of God in the world. They take over, and they tell us the lie that they are in charge of our lives now. That way lies madness, and they would rob us of sharing in God’s dreams for the world. They always deny God’s capacity to redeem any life, any situation. They always speak in a voice of dark hopelessness and despair and the lie is that they are somehow in charge.

And I’m here to promise you: that that voice is a liar. The voice that would lock us in a cage of fear and separate us from the Light of the World is the voice of a  false prophet. I think it was love that helped my father overcome his demons, and it was the love of Christ that cast out those unclean spirits in Capernaum. The message of Jesus today remains a message of liberation from the unclean spirits that would tear our lives apart.  You see, I’ve read this book, all the way to the end, and just like that day in Capernaum, God’s love wins. Always. Love always wins.

Amen.

James R. Dennis, O.P.

© 2015 James R. Dennis

I Know Who You Are

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching– with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.  Mark 1:21-28.

In today’s Gospel reading, Mark reports that Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum.  Somehow, Jesus’ teaching wasn’t like the normal commentary  to which the people had become accustomed.  His words carried a power which they have not heard before, and they would soon discover the breadth of his authority.  Jesus had a command of scripture which the people had not encountered before, but we also get the sense that it’s more than that.  We have the impression that they encountered something in Jesus himself they hadn’t previously seen: a certain gravitas, a new mastery and might.

Suddenly, a man “with an unclean spirit” accosted Jesus.  Interestingly, this unholy spirit spoke to Jesus in the plural. (The spirit asked “What have you to do with us?” and “Have you come to destroy us?”) Perhaps this daemon refered to both itself and the possessed man.  Or perhaps evil is always multifaceted, or duplicitous by its very nature.  The spirit then announced, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 

Further evidencing his authority, Jesus expels the spirit from the man, freeing him from a terrible torment and bondage.  I suspect most of us have known someone in the grip of such an evil spirit, one which confines their souls and robs them of joy.  We may have concluded, as Einstein famously remarked, “It’s easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.”  Those in the grip of such an evil spirit have no power within themselves to help themselves.

In a few short sentences, Mark has revealed several facets of Jesus: teacher; healer; liberator; and compassionate pastor.  This revelation fits perfectly within our Epiphany theme.  Through the act of freeing this man from the shackles of sin, Jesus restores God’s creation.

I don’t think Mark tells this story so much to describe an exorcism as to reveal the reach of Jesus’ authority, which includes the scriptures, the world of the flesh and the world of the spirit.  In this passage, Mark thus reveals Jesus as Lord of all created things. 

Ironically, Mark places some of the most important questions about and observations of Jesus within the mouth of this evil spirit.  The unclean spirit asks, “What have you to do with us?”  I am certain that I do not ask myself that question often enough.  What does Jesus have to do with me, with this day, with this place and with this hour?  In what way is Jesus relevant to this very moment of my life, and what am I going to do about that? 

The unholy spirit also announces, “I know who you are,  the Holy One of God.”  I’m wondering how well we know who Jesus is, and do we recognize his authority?  Do we recognize Jesus when we encounter him, and do we know his power?  Are we willing to let him rid us of those spirits that would destroy us? Will we listen when he tells our demons to be silent and to depart?  I pray we will.

 Shabbat shalom,

Br. James

© 2012 James R. Dennis

On the Road to Damascus

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Acts 9:1-19.

God has a really funny way of doing business. He choses a murderer with a speech impediment to lead His people out of Egypt, an ethically challenged chiseler to bear the name of the nation of Israel, and a murderous philanderer to unite the kingdom of His people. In today’s reading, Luke reports that despite the resurrection, Saul continued to breathe threats and murder against those who followed the Way. Let’s be clear about this: Saul was engaged in genocide against those who followed Christ.

And so, had the Lord asked me about his selection of Saul, like Ananias I would have asked Him, “Are you really sure this is the guy?” You see, not much in Saul’s life suggested that he would be the person most responsible for spreading the message of Jesus throughout the Empire. God, however, had something remarkable in mind. God knew something we really struggle against: people can change.

While en route to Damascus to continue in his campaign of annihilation, Saul (or Paul, in the Greek form of the name) encounters the risen Lord. Again, the reading meshes well into our Epiphany theme, as Scripture records that he was surrounded by a light from heaven.

This passage further reinforces our understanding of the Church as the body of Christ. Saul, of course, was persecuting the early Church. Jesus didn’t ask, “Why are you messing with my church?” Rather, Jesus asks Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?” Already, in the book of Acts, the Church is identified therefore with the body of Christ.

After his post-resurrection encounter with Jesus, Paul loses his sight for three days. This story fits very well within an idea we’ve already encountered, the distinction between physical observation and spiritual insight. And Paul must lose his physical powers of insight before he can gain a genuine spiritual vision. God was reshaping Paul’s understanding of the Lord and his entire world-vision. It’s as though this transformation, this conversion, required a complete reboot of his system. Paul must have gone through a terrible loneliness during this time. As Bonhoeffer once observed, we are never more isolated than we are in becoming a Christian, but the alienation occurs for the sake of a new community.

For most of us, our conversion experience will not look like this. Although I’ve run across them now and then, most folks will not find their conversion so complete or so dramatic. I’ve found that my conversion takes place in small increments, daily, through several small decisions to follow Jesus’ example, through self-denial and participation in the sacramental life with which the Church has blessed us, and mostly through God’s redeeming grace.

And yet, God chose Saul–this monster, this antagonist and enemy of the early Church. God saw within him “an instrument to bring my name before gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” It’s worth noting that Saul’s conversion required more of him than simply changing his mind about things. Saul’s conversion, like ours, carried along with it a call and a vocation. Rather than simply offering a new way of looking at things, his conversion required an apostolic commitment as Saul would be sent out to serve in the world. Ours does too.

So today, as we celebrate the Feast of St. Paul’s conversion, I hope this story serves as a reminder of the need for charity towards our enemies, and perhaps even charity towards ourselves. God may yet have in mind a way to use them (and us) for his redeeming work. As children of the Creator, we may all someday become new creatures, a great blessing and a great gift to the Church. Saul did.

May the peace of Christ disturb you profoundly,

Br. James

© 2012 James R. Dennis

The Beloved

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:4-11.

The Lectionary offers us this reading from Mark’s Gospel on this first Sunday of the season of Epiphany.  The Greek word epiphaino translates roughly as the appearance or manifestation of the light.  This Gospel reading fits perfectly within that idea, and you’ll remember that we previously discussed  Jesus had describing himself as the “light of the world.”

I’ve always been fascinated with the issue of Jesus’ understanding of himself:  what did the incarnate Lord understand about his role, and when did he begin to understand it?  The story of Jesus’ baptism offers us some remarkable insight into these questions.

The story begins with a character we’ve become familiar with, John the Baptist.  Now, at the time, the practice of ritual purification was fairly common.  John seems to have been doing something different, though, in this rite of baptism. More than just a ceremonial cleansing, John appears to have called  his followers to a spiritual act of  initiation.   Rather than a regular ritual purification, John seems to be engaged in something unique, radical and challenging at the time. 

John’s baptism would have challenged the institutional church of the day, offering baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  John lacked any institutional authority and forgiving sins lay within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Temple priests.  Like most of the prophets, John presents himself as a fanatic, an outsider and a critic of the status quo.  So, when Jesus endorses John’s ministry, his baptism itself challenged the authority of the Temple. 

Jesus shared in listening to John’s prophetic call. He waded into the same waters as the rest of John’s followers. He approaches John just as everyone else came to John. Thus, Jesus shared those waters with all humanity. And then, something astonishing happened….

Earlier, we talked about the collision of heaven and earth in Jesus’ nativity.  We discussed the notion that the Incarnation changed the very fabric of space and time.  We see those ideas reinforced in this remarkable story of the Epiphany, as God begins to reveal Himself, to “enlighten” the world a bit.

 As Jesus comes forth from the water, Mark reports that the heavens were “torn open.”  That terribly interesting phrase, “torn open”, suggests this was no peaceful, gentle encounter.  Mark uses that same word, “torn”, to describe the separation of the Temple curtain after Jesus “breathed his last” on Golgotha.  As the veil separating heaven and earth rips apart, the Spirit emerges.

These remarkable events unfold as Jesus (whose very name means “God saves”)  emerges from the water.  The story reverberates with the memory of the Jewish people emerging the Red Sea, their principle narrative of salvation.  And then, from the heavens, God claims Jesus as His son, the Beloved.

I’d encourage you to engage in an exercise.  I’d like you to think back to your own baptism.  And I’d like you to imagine that same voice announcing that you are God’s child, and His beloved.  I believe it’s important that we become acclimated to that idea.  It may offer the first step in going beyond celebrating an Epiphany to living out the Epiphany and spreading the light of Christ into the dark places of the world.  My friend, Father Mike Marsh noted recently ( here)  that God calls each of us to “become Epiphany”.  Our vocation and our challenge lies in manifesting God’s love, helping His people hear that voice as the heavens are torn apart.

Shabbat shalom,

James R. Dennis, O.P.

  © 2012 James R. Dennis