In today’s gospel we hear the story of the transfiguration. Some years ago I had the good fortune to travel to the Holy Land with a group of priests. We spent 10 days walking where Jesus walked and reflecting on the scriptures. It was a wonderful experience.
In the first reading today from the book of Genesis, God says to Noah and his sons: “See, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants.” God desires a relationship, a covenant, with each one of us. He established an intimate covenant with humanity through the life, death and resurrection of His only Son. These days of Lent are our opportunity to renew and strengthen this covenant with God.
In our first reading and gospel today we hear stories of the disease of leprosy. This skin disease was very contagious and as our first reading states those affected were sent to live apart from the main community. They were required to shout out “unclean” as they approached others, so that contact could be avoided.
Who are today’s prophets? Perhaps first we must ask – what is a prophet? A prophet is one who speaks for God, and in our world today there are many who speak for God (priests, teachers, parents, friends). One most important role in our Church today is to pray for more priests and to encourage those we think may be called to priesthood.
Last week in the bulletin I spoke a bit about the call of God and responding to it. I mentioned how some seminarians were looking for a clear call from God, but how unusual that sort of call is. More often, God’s call is more subtle and we have to discern the call, usually with the help and guidance of others.
In my years in the seminary I recall some men who longed for a clear call from God about their vocation. Often, God’s voice isn’t as clear as we’d like and we have to discern the nudges we receive.
Today we conclude the Christmas season as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. In the first reading Isaiah reminds us of God’s call when he says: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost.”
The word “Epiphany” comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation.” This feast was originally celebrated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas (hence the twelve days of Christmas). Now it is placed on the first Sunday of January (but not January 1) so that more people will be able to celebrate this important day.
In the Gospel today Simeon took Jesus in his arms and said: “my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
As we near the end of Advent we are given an opportunity to once again hear a very important voice, that of Mary. In today’s Gospel she says: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” The definition of a handmaid is: “a personal maid or female servant; one whose essential function is to serve or assist.”