In the readings for this Sunday, Jan. 7, we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, the revelation that Jesus is God. Jesus came so that everyone could know him, and is with us so that we can help others see God in their lives.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
The readings for this Sunday, Jan. 7, are full of images of light, welcome, invitation, and joy. When we recognize God present in our lives, we can’t help but be joyful–and when our faith brings us joy, we can’t help being light to those who need to see God. The readings remind us that one of the most important things to making us effective messengers of God’s love to others is to remember that God wants everyone to be with him. The same way that we recognize God in our lives, we have to be willing to recognize God’s invitation to all people; even the people who don’t seem to be very Christ-like. We can’t pick and choose who we’re kind and loving to–God already chose them, and it’s up to us to show them the invitation.
Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.
Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
Ephesians 3:2-3A, 5-6
…the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Today’s readings are a beautiful, poetic expression of what happens when we choose, as a church and as individuals, to be the light—the guiding star of God’s presence to the world. Israel was told that they would become a “light to the nations”, drawing people from all over the world to them as a sign of God’s love for everyone. When we participate in this, our hearts will become full—“you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow.”
The second reading makes an even stronger point of our mission—Paul goes so far as to say that, “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” The “gentiles” he was talking about were people who hadn’t made themselves part of the Jewish Covenant. We should think of the “gentiles” in our world are those who have not previously seen themselves as belonging to God. As recipients of God’s gift of adoption to us, it’s up to us to help them see that God wants them; that they are meant to be included in the promises of Christ.
The Gospel recalls the story of the Magi—those who studied the stars and saw God present in the natural world. They were gentiles; they weren’t part of the Jewish Covenant, and yet, they were invited before anyone else to Jesus’ crib-side. They arrived a little later, but that’s because they had a long journey. What does this tell us? That God calls everyone—and this is the first case of “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” in Jesus’ earthly life. Jesus came for the Jews, but it wasn’t high-ranking Jews who were brought to him first—it was people who would normally not belong.
What gift would you bring to Jesus if you got to visit him in the manger?
What does it mean to you that God goes out of his way to invite the outsiders to him before he invites the higher-ups? How do you live your mission to be a light to the nations? How effective are you at including those who are not usually seen as “belonging”?
What makes your heart throb and overflow? How far would you travel to respond to God’s invitation to meet him?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
The Magi went on a long journey to find Jesus. It can be said that they made something of a pilgrimage. Can your family make a pilgrimage some time this year to seek out Jesus in new ways? Where could you go?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”