Sunday Scripture Readings

EPIPHANY, JANUARY 5

Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72;

Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

OUR GOOD NEWS: God's "secret" is out! Through his Church, God guides the world to Jesus, who graciously accepts our homage. In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah watches in meditation as dawn breaks over Jerusalem. Surrounding valleys lie shrouded in mist and shadow - "darkness covers the earth" - while in the sky, pale brightness appears. Suddenly, first rays of sun break through, making hilltop city glow like a diamond. "Arise, Jerusalem, rise clothed in light!" Through infidelity and disobedience God's people had lost everything. They had been led into exile and slavery in faraway pagan Babylon, their beautiful capital city destroyed. The prophet now proclaims good news to fellow Jews, addressed as a young woman personifying Jerusalem and using imagery of dawn's breaking. "Rise up" from weeping and despair! God's saving act, like welcome light driving out threatening darkness, "is surely coming." Salvation means the Lord's presence among his people, like "light" or "glory" (visible manifestation of his divine Being). God's people, symbolized by Jerusalem, will reflect the Lord's own "splendor," a beacon drawing pagan nations to God through itself. These peoples will come to honor Israel's God in the rebuilt temple. Pagan pilgrims will fittingly arrive bearing rich tribute. First and foremost will come the city's exiled "children" (citizens) - "sons" walking on foot, infant "daughters carried on the hip." Lady Jerusalem's "heart shall throb and overflow" with joy, a mother "radiant" at the return of her children scattered in foreign exile. The whole earth will be caught up in a grand offering procession or liturgy, the "wealth of nations" flowing toward Jerusalem where the Lord reigns as universal sovereign. Goods normally carried in ships arrive from north and west; everything transported overland will come on camels from south and east - "Midian and Ephah," famous for caravan traders; "Sheba," Arabian trading center dealing in "gold, frankincense" and spices. A veritable flood of gifts for Israel's God will be piled high around His hilltop city! What the prophet saw in vision would be fulfilled centuries later. Jesus, fullness of God's revelation and "light shining in darkness" (Jn 1:5), welcomed the Magi, ambassadors representing the pagan world, graciously accepting their homage expressed in gifts worthy of royalty and even divinity. These pagans are our models of humility, willing to learn, open to risk and newness, eager rather than hesitant for commitment to Christ. The universal Church fulfills Old Testament predictions of worldwide homage to Israel's God. These Magi lead an "offertory procession" by which all nations acknowledge their Lord, who come as Savior of Gentiles as well as Jews. Today's psalm celebrates the completion of what King David could only imperfectly foreshadow. Jesus shall bring the whole world joyfully into God's Kingdom while showing particular regard for the needy who can't care for themselves. "For He shall rescue the poor man when he cries out and the afflicted when he has no one to help him. He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; and lives of the poor He shall save." Once again, we celebrate a feast with special concern for the poor!

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