Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – January 2019

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

January 2019

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you!  May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary in this New Year!  I pray that your Christmas was blessed and that, as we prepare to celebrate the wonderful Feast of Epiphany, I ask you to reflect on this incredible feast for a while. We all too often see the Epiphany as the three wise men coming to adore the Baby Jesus, and it is that, but oh so much more.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks volumes:

“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.”[1],[2]  

So, we see that according to the Catechism, Epiphany is not just the visitation of the three magi, it includes the Baptism of Christ and the sign (as Saint John calls it) of the Wedding Feast of Cana.  First, I would like to take a look at this year’s Old Testament reading for the feast.

“Arise! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the LORD has dawned upon you.  Though darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds, the peoples, upon you the LORD will dawn, and over you his glory will be seen.  Nations shall walk by your light, kings by the radiance of your dawning.[3],[4]

In this beautiful passage from Isaiah the prophet proclaims that not only will Zion (the chosen people) see the Glory of the Lord, but all the nations of the earth will see his great light!  This was a very new message for Israel.  In that time, and right up to Jesus’ time, Israel frequently shunned the stranger, or even castigated him, even though they were called to be the light of the world.

Now I would like to look at two scriptures that describe the Baptism of our Lord, one directly and the other indirectly.

“After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”[5],[6]

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  He is the one of whom I said  ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.”[7],[8]

In both the Gospel of Mathew and in the Gospel of John we see the Father revealing to the world his beloved son, not as a baby but as the Lamb of God.  John’s Gospel does not directly link the revelation to Jesus’ baptism, but does link it indirectly.  In both cases, Jesus is revealed in a new and clearer way.

Lastly, we have the wedding feast of Cana:

“And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs[9] in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.[10],[11] 

Though Jesus performed many more than seven miracles, the Apostle John selectively cites only seven for this reason:  the number seven shows the completeness of God’s revelation of Jesus to the Hebrews and to the world, and is traditionally thought of as the number representing God’s perfect nature.  Each of the seven signs builds on the next to paint a complete picture of the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world.

“The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (Jn 2:1–11); this represents the replacement of the Jewish ceremonial washings and symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus.”[12]

Accordingly we see that the Feast of Epiphany is much more than the coming of the Magi.  It is the celebration of the revelation of the Light of God to all peoples, the declaration and revelation of Jesus and God’s son and Lamb of God (sacrifice) and the revelation that Jesus is the transforming and creative force of the Godhead.

So, what does that have to do with Franciscan formation?  A great deal! And in the coming months we will continue to discuss this and reflect on our Rule of Life and the Sacred Scriptures.  I will leave you with a chapter of our rule to start contemplating.

“They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.  Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.”[13],[14]

 

 

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

[1] Taken from CCC-528

[2] Emphasis mine

[3] Isaiah 60:1-3

[4] Emphasis mine

[5] Mathew 3:16-17

[6] Emphasis mine

[7] John 1:29-32

[8] Emphasis mine

[9] “Sign” (sēmeion) is John’s symbolic term for Jesus’ wondrous deeds

[10] John 2:9-11

[11] Emphasis mine

[12] Introduction to the Gospel of John, NABRE, approved by the USCCB

[13] OFS Rule, Chapter 6

[14] Emphasis mine

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