Even as homes, stores and streets are quickly stripped of holiday decorations during these days after Christmas, Christians continue to observe the Lord's birthday through Sunday, Jan. 11, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
During this season that we call Christmastide, we celebrate the beautiful Solemnity of Epiphany. The Scriptures of the feast call all nations to sing God's praises, because they have heard the good news, worshiping the long awaited Messiah with the gift of their lives. The image of the Three Kings, the wisemen from the East bearing gifts to the Infant Jesus, engages our reflection on gifts ... those we have received, those we can give. Let me mention two.
First is the gift of our Christian faith. How often have I heard people say, "Where would I be without my faith in Christ?" Do we truly appreciate the wonder of knowing that God loves each of us unconditionally? That Christ has invited us to live as his friends and disciples? That the sacraments offer us a guaranteed encounter with the Risen Christ? That we have been entrusted with a share in the Lord's own saving mission in the world? And that we have been given the hope of eternal glory if only we strive to live faithfully here and now?
But faith is meant to be shared, not confined. During these days through mid-January, 1700 Catholics Come Home "evangomercials" are airing daily on local TV throughout Western New York. Let your own faith be refreshed as you view them. And why not use them to start conversations with other folks, especially Catholics you know to be a bit distant from the life of the Church?
Have you seen those Catholic TV spots? Aren't they beautiful? Why not come along to Mass with me next weekend?" May God's grace prompt you to reach out these days.
The second gift we should appreciate is consecrated life ... the wonderful women and men in religious life who in so many ways have been the sturdy backbone of the Church's ministries. As I have said on many occasions, I do not know who or what I would be right now without the many sisters, brothers and priests consecrated by religious vows who have impacted my life and my vocation as a Catholic, a priest and now a bishop.
Religious men and women have been and are my teachers, collaborators, advisors and friends. Let's take a moment during these Christmas days to thank the religious we know for their witness and selfless service. And, too, let's thank God for them. Pope Francis invites the whole Church during this Year of Consecrated Life to realize how much the Church, the world, continues to need their radiant witness to Christ.
Epiphany: all about appreciating and sharing the gifts we have received. Happy Epiphany!