|Today is Epiphany for the Western Church, while the Eastern Church celebrates Christmas. Epiphany simply means revealing – a revelation of God to the Wise Men and a revelation of the opposition God’s truth faces in a fractured world.
While Herod emerges as the villain of the piece, I sadly cannot fail to recognise myself in him. There’s a fault line within me that can all too easily direct malicious thoughts towards others.
Why is it I move to thinking critical, unkind and negative thoughts about others so quickly and with such ease? We are called to love others as we love ourselves, yet I often struggle with that in reality.
Herod, without a moment’s hesitation, moves away from open enquiry to dark assumptions about this defenceless babe who is prophesied to be leader of Israel.
He sees threat and chooses to use his power for evil rather than for good. Herod represents what still remains so poisonous within our world. The way that we look out for ourselves and live constrained by fears that are birthed and fuelled within our own imagination alone.
The power of such malicious thoughts is that they will ultimately give birth to actions so destructive that they mortally damage others. The place I have to start my redemptive journey is in acknowledging that I am not naturally nice; that I am self-centred rather than other-focused.
Yet, a few moments gazing upon Jesus reveals One who lives for the other, ahead of living for himself. He first lives to please God, whatever the consequences. Then he seeks to love others.
When I was a new Christian, there was a chorus that became something of a mantra for my life. It was an explanation of the lovely word JOY. This explanation stated that we are to put Jesus first, ourselves last and others in between. Now, that is the way we are to live today.
(Dr Micha Jazz)
With many peaceful blessings
Christians who suffer torture and murder by ISIS are like the first century Christians who were “besieged by persecution”, according to the Pope.
Describing violent atrocities carried out by Herod who put James, brother of John to the sword and seized and jailed Peter, Pope Francis said “terrible, inhuman and inexplicable persecution” is unfortunately still present in many parts of the world.
Speaking on the feast of the apostles St Peter and St Paul, he said this persecution even today takes place often “under the eyes and in the silence of all”.
He said the courage of the apostles and the first Christian community in continuing the work of evangelisation without fear of death and martyrdom in a pagan empire was “a strong call to prayer, faith and witness” for believers today.
In his homily the Pope said: “How many forces in the course of history have tried, and still do, to destroy the Church, from without as well as within, but they themselves are destroyed and the Church remains alive and fruitful.”
He said Christians were duty-bound to evangelise. “A church or a Christian who does not give witness is sterile, like a dead person who thinks they are alive, like a dried up tree that produces no fruit an empty well that offers no water.”
And the strongest weapon for the Christian was prayer. “A Christian who prays is a Christian protected, preserved and supported, but especially not alone,” he said. “Prayer is the encounter with God, with God who never lets us down, with God who is faithful to His word, with God who does not abandon His children.”
The forces of evil such as ISIS will not prevail, he predicted.
“How many forces, throughout history, have tried – and try – to destroy the Church, both from outside and from the inside, but they are all destroyed and the Church remains alive and fertile!” This was because “the Church is not of the Popes, bishops, priests and even of the faithful, it is only Christ. Only those who live in Christ’s Church promote and defend the sanctity of life, the example of Peter and Paul.”
There is no force capable of defeating those with the power of faith, he said.
With many peaceful blessings
After that, Jesus, aware that all had now come to its appointed end, said in the fulfilment of Scripture,’ I thirst’.
A jar stood there full of sour wine; so they soaked a sponge with the wine, fixed it on a javelin, and held it up to his lips. Having received the wine, he said,’ It is accomplished!’
He bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Because it was the eve of Passover, the Jews were anxious that the bodies should not remain on the cross for the coming Sabbath, since that Sabbath was a day of great solemnity so they requested Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers accordingly became to the first of his fellow victims and to the second, and broke their legs; but when they came to Jesus, they found that he was already dead, so they did not break his legs.
But one of the soldiers stabbed his side with a lance, and at once there was a flow of blood and water. This is vouched for by an eye witness, whose evidence is to be trusted.
He knows that he speaks the truth, so that you too may believe; for this happened in fulfilment of the Scripture: ‘ No bone of his shall be broken’. And another text says,’ They shall look on him whom they pierced’.
After that, Pilate was approached by Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, but the secret disciple for fear of the Jews, who asked to be allowed to remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission; so Joseph came and took the body away.
He was joined by Nicodemus (the man who had first visited Jesus by night), who brought with him a mixture of myrrh and aloes, more than half a hundredweight.
They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of cloth according to Jewish burial customs.
Now at the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden there was a new tomb, not yet used for burial.
There, because the tomb was near at hand and it was also the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, they laid Jesus.
Today, we watch our Lord at the receiving end, taken in charge by the authorities and receiving at their hands and at the hands of the mob, insults, mockery and shame.
He is given up to the people’s will at the dictate of Pilate. He is the passive recipient of the men’s malice.
And yet, he is the great Actor in this drama of redemption. He reigns from the tree…….
Even in his death throes, he is sufficiently master of time and circumstance to be able to care for his mother in her loneliness; and sufficiently in control to heed his fellow victim’s cry for help and to assure him of a place with him in Paradise; sufficiently aware to be able to utter the great cry of achievement: “it is accomplished!”
O Jesus, King most wonderful,
Thou conqueror renowned!
(John 19: 28 June-42)
With many peaceful and joyful blessings