Wise, old men of different races came searching for a child whom the heavens had taught them to seek. They came looking for a unique king, newly born. The divine king, the One Who could unite the whole world, and give the human race the friendship of heaven. [Spanish.]
And here He is, the baby. In the arms of His virgin mother. Had the wise men thought that the newborn king would have a virgin mother? A mother like Mary–a poor, humble woman from an insignificant town? Had the magi imagined that the king of the world would have a foster father who was so dusty, and had such calloused hands, as St. Joseph; a man who did not own a single cushion to put on the meager furniture he had made for his household?
We don’t know what the travelers from the East expected exactly. But we know what they found–the king in his mother’s arms, with the carpenter nearby. Together these people form the scene that we now contemplate, the scene with which we begin every year. The arrival of the wise men at the feet of the baby Jesus: this marks the new year with it’s number, so to speak. We find ourselves 2,018 years into the revelation of divine light that shone on the face of Christ.
We don’t know what triumphs and tragedies may await us this year, in our little lives. To be sure, not all of us will celebrate Epiphany 2019 here on earth. We had a bishop named Francis Xavier DiLorenzo on Epiphany 2017. But not today.
But we also know this for sure: We belong to the scene we contemplate. We belong to the “thing” that began 2,018 years ago: the life of God made man, born of the lovely, humble Virgin. We ourselves make a part of His life–the earth’s great Teacher, High Priest, and true King. We belong to Him, because we belong to His Church. We will live this year, 2,018, with whatever it brings, as members of Jesus Christ’s household, His family, His very Body.
And it’s a big year for the Catholic family here in the little diocese of Richmond, Virginia. For four weeks now, if you’ve paid careful attention to all the prayers during the consecration of the Host and Chalice, you’ve heard mention of someone called “Barry, our bishop-designate.” This is the final Snday when we will call him that. Next Sunday, Barry will be simply “our bishop.” On Friday the Archbishop of Baltimore and Pope Francis’ representative to the US–not to mention some other Cardinals and Bishops–will come to Richmond to install Barry Knestout as our shepherd.
Now, the sitting bishop of a diocese doesn’t necessarily have a large impact on the lives of the Catholics in the parishes. The biggest thing is that, for good or ill, the bishop assigns the priests. Dear, late Bishop DiLorenzo inflicted me on Rocky Mount and Martinsville not once, but twice. So you have him to thank. Or not thank. God rest his soul.
But even though the bishop may wind-up being only a name to most, he nonetheless occupies an important place in our lives. We cannot remain united with the holy scene we contemplate at Christmas and Epiphany without the bishop. He unites us not only with the Church spread throughout the world, but also with the Church that extends back through time, to Her original foundation by Jesus Christ Himself.
And Barry our bishop wil have many quiet but highly important decisions and judgments to make. So we owe him our fervent prayers.
A new year and a new chapter in the two-century history of our diocese: a good time for us to take stock of our spiritual lives and make some resolutions–or renew the resolutions we made before, and which we have kept with varying degrees of success.
Anyone ever read St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life? He says that our spiritual lives are like a clock.
Now, St. Francis de Sales lived four hundred years ago. They had clocks back then, just not electric ones. And of course no cellphones. So you had to wind your clock. Everyday. And you had to take the clock apart completely, and clean it, every year.
Let’s do the same with our spiritual lives. A good, thorough evaluation of how we pray and how we commune with God. A good cleaning of the gears, and a fresh winding-up.
How about a humble suggestion from your pastor? Let’s all resolve to pray everyday, without fail, during 2018. And go to Mass every Sunday, without fail.