The presence of Jesus cannot be contained or hidden. Epiphany celebrates that fact. The Epiphany was not the last of the epiphanies, or manifestations of Jesus. There are three mysteries that celebrate the Lord's epiphany: the arrival of the Magi at the scene of Christ's birth, the story in the gospel of John telling of the changing of water into wine at Cana and Luke's story of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan. These early gospel stories begin the revelation to us of who Jesus is and what his mission will be. Just as we are called to sing out for joy with the Christmas angels, so also are we called to be, in our own time, His magi, and His star, his beloved sons and daughters. We must make Him manifest by virtue of own baptism. We must give witness in our words and in our actions to our faith in Him as Lord and Savior.
The Gospel of Luke was written during a time of transition as the early Christian community looked toward growing within the wider world. Initially the early followers of Christ were filled with the burning fire, creativity and enthusiasm of a brand new faith community. But by the time Luke wrote, the biggest danger for them was compromise and comfort. There were problems in the community as well as discouragement and a loss of the zeal that characterized the first generation of believers.
Luke's Gospel deals with the issue of Christians who are tiring and being distracted by the world around them. These were second or third generation Christians. They had not seen Jesus or personally witnessed the wonderful things that he had done. Like us, they had to make a decision to follow Christ and to be faithful to a community of prayer and service. Disciples in this Gospel are asked to live totally dedicated lives as they wholeheartedly embraced their own baptism.
The Gospel of Luke will continue this theme over and over as we come together throughout the liturgical season of "Ordinary Time." This will be a time when we are again seized by God, anointed by the Spirit, declared to be His beloved - to be light - to bring justice - to heal the bruised - to help keep smoldering wicks from going out.
We are disciples, followers, imitators - seeking opportunities each day to bring light, to heal the wounded, to act against injustice, to use our power to set others free, to be at all times and in all circumstances peace-makers. Living that way day by day, we can be assured that God continues to let His favor rest on us, and identify us as His beloved, His anointed, His holy ones. This is not just Jesus' story. This is our story. This is our ministry.
And ministry, at its deepest level, means "to be present" to others, not just "serving others." Ministry means caring for others enough that we are willing to "be with" them, to suffer with them, to keep on paying attention to them, to bring them hope and peace.
Each day of this new year will give us an opportunity to celebrate life, to share love, to enkindle hope. It will provide new occasions for service to others, for compassion and understanding, for listening and learning. Each day will bring a challenge to each of us - to take what we have experienced, what we have been given and to consciously work to complete His mission: to re-create the face of the earth into a world where all human life is always defended, where the poor and outcast are made welcome, where those held bound by sickness, disease or hatred are set free, and where all can come to know God’s all-embracing love.
There is a very tender image in the Isaiah reading today. God says to the chosen servant, I have grasped you by the hand . God does not just send us out on our own as we face the obstacles the world throws at us. Instead, God calls each of us as his "beloved." He takes each of us by the hand and reminds us that we, too, are anointed by the same Spirit as Jesus.