Sunday Scriptures

Bask in the Light of Christ

by Father James Rodriguez

Today’s readings point to the light that had come to dispel the darkness of the world – not only the planet we live on, but also the unique individual worlds that you and I are in this universe of humanity. Revolving around the Son, we sometimes allow sin to eclipse the grace of God bestowed on us at baptism. So it is good to breathe in this celebration deeply, basking in the light of Christmas that continues to shine brightly.

On this day, by ancient tradition, it is fitting to announce the dates of movable feasts for the year. These dates, as the name indicates, are not annually fixed, like Dec. 25, for example. The reason for the “movability” of these feasts goes back to ancient Jewish customs used to set the date for Passover each year, which the Church adopted in setting the yearly date for Easter.

Keeping on Course

The fact that we can easily look these dates up on our own does not mean we have somehow outgrown the tradition of proclaiming them. In fact, the beauty of announcing the feasts is that it provides a type of map or plan for the year. These dates become buoys in the ocean of life, keeping us on course and reflecting the light of the great Paschal lighthouse of the Resurrection, brightening our journey to next Advent.

It is precisely in this way that today’s readings function. Isaiah’s insistence on reminding Israel that its light “has come” is a call to each baptized person, enlightened by Christ under the water that – for most of us – trickled over our foreheads in infancy. Regardless of the age or style in which you were baptized, you were brought into the Church as the priest or deacon spoke the holy name of the Trinity.

Following this essential part of the baptismal liturgy, a small candle is lighted from a larger one and handed to a parent or godparent with the words: “Receive the light of Christ…this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly.”

Certainly these words refer not to the candle, but the “flame of faith” newly sparked in the child’s tiny heart. Similarly, Isaiah speaks of the darkness that has been cast out by the faithfulness of the Father, which is at the heart of our Christmas celebration.

At the end of His earthly ministry, as Jesus was to ascend to His faithful Father, he gave to the Apostles – and by extension, to us – the mandate to evangelize. Not coincidentally, he also gave us the formula for Christian baptism. In every baptism, as those small candles that represent us receive light from the larger candle that represents Christ, the world grows that much brighter, and the words of today’s responsorial psalm ring true as “every nation on earth” comes to the Truth.

Forces Working Against Us

It is a sad reality, however, that the flame is often snuffed out by the many forces in our lives that contradict the Gospel. We have an obligation as believers to continually evangelize ourselves, seeking out ways to keep fanning the furnace of charity that lives within us by virtue of our baptism, and not letting it grow cold. Think of the Catholics you know who have fallen away and are even now missing out on the true and deeply satisfying joy of knowing Christ.

Jesus spoke about setting the world on fire, and it is our responsibility to first allow His ardent love to take hold of us. Then we must spread it until the whole world is ablaze in its purifying light, engulfed but not consumed, like the bush through which God began the liberation of the Israelites in that first Passover. Today, we continue to celebrate the true passover in which we are freed from sin by the sacrifice of the Son, our newborn King.

Changed to the Core

In the Gospel, we are granted a vivid picture of what this looks like. The Magi, each seeking enlightenment, are changed upon finding it. Quite naturally, they begin by consulting the earthly king of the Jews, a man whose many scribes and consultors knew the prophecy well. These “experts,” the very people who should have been reading the signs of the times and rejoicing that the words first uttered to their ancestors were finally being fulfilled, did nothing good with their knowledge. On the contrary, Herod’s petulant jealousy led him not to deny the royalty of Jesus, but to horrifically try to snuff it out.

The Magi were different. They approached in humble adoration, offered gifts to the Lord and “departed for their country by another way.”

May we likewise present ourselves to Him as living gifts, and reflecting the light of His adorable face be also penetrated by that light and changed to the core. O come, let us adore Him.

Readings for the Epiphany of the Lord                    

Isaiah 60: 1-6

Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

Ephesians 3: 2-3A, 5-6

Matthew 2: 1-12


Father James Rodriguez is the associate vocation director for the diocese and teaches at Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst.