In the after-glow, as it were of the Feast of Epiphany’s fascination for the stars, today’s liturgy helps us bring heaven and earth together.
In the first reading, St. John reminds us that love is the Divine Gift to us. Above all, it is a love that enables. It makes brothers and sisters of us all. That is our high dignity.
But our earthly reality demands that this is more than a benign benefit. It is strength for “overcoming the world” when the world is blind to God’s gift. Then love for our sisters and brothers becomes a commandment.
The Gospel dramatically demonstrates the beautiful ways the commandment is to be lived out: bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free.
We see the oppressed as the “crucified ones” whose sufferings share in the sufferings of Christ, drawing our Passionist response, in the solidarity of our charism. In light of Pope Francis’ Laudato ‘Si, another suffering merits our response, even as we are stunned by its ferocity and magnitude -- the combined human and natural tragedy of the bush fires of Australia.
The renowned French Passionist, Stanislas Breton once confided that: “in the immensity
of Australia, in the almost total desert, alone, I celebrated my first Mass for the world. * In the magnificent southern sky, the constellation called the “Southern Cross” brilliantly shined as in no other place of the constellation: the cosmic cross of my holy Mass. After the consecration I asked myself: What does this sign in the sky, sign and source of contradiction, say to me and to the world?”
In a new year, in a new decade of Earth history, we seem to be called to a task not unlike the one accepted by the Magi. How do we bring this celestial message and our earthly experience together? What gifts can we bring to the liturgy for our sisters and brothers and all creatures that are our kin?
* Passionist International Bulleting No. 3, 2003, p.22
Stephen Dunn cp