Epiphany – We the People, the Kings

Meet & Greets – Sunday, January 27
Our next Meet & Greets will be on Sunday, January 27. We will be offering coffee and breakfast after the 9 and 11:15 AM Masses, and wine and cheese after the 7 PM Mass. Please join us for hospitality and fellowship!

Bishop’s Visit – Sunday, February 2 3
Bishop DiMarzio will be visiting St. Charles on Sunday, February 2nd 3rd, and will be celebrating the 9 AM Mass that day. Please join us to welcome him that morning.

The Pope and the Bishops:

This week the Bishops of the United States are on a religious retreat suggested by Pope Francis. Their Retreat Master is Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the official preacher to the Papal Household  and thus preacher to the Pope. Pope Francis has also written to them a most bracing letter. You may find the letter in full at: http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/holy-see/francis/upload/francis-lettera-washington-traduzione-inglese-20190103.pdf

We would all benefit from reading this part as a parish:

[What we need as a Church] requires not only a new approach to management, but also a change in our mind-set (metanoia), our way of praying, our handling of power and money, our exercise of authority and our way of relating to one another and to the world around us. Changes in the Church are always aimed at encouraging a constant state of missionary and pastoral conversion capable of opening up new ecclesial paths ever more in keeping with the Gospel and, as such, respectful of human dignity. … [The Church] needs bishops who can teach others how to discern God’s presence in the history of his people, not mere administrators.”

All who wish to have a place in Church leadership should listen to these words. I certainly will.

Fr Smith



First Reading

The Epiphany

Jan 6, 2019


Last week we saw the Jewish people move from clan and chieftain leadership to a monarchy. Although this occurred around the year 1000 BC, the book of Samuel revealed a rather sophisticated understanding of the strengths and weakness of each system. This week, we see how the Jews adapted to knowing that they would not have a king in the foreseeable future and an even more sophisticated analysis of the consequences.

This section of the book of Isaiah was written about 500 BC in Jerusalem. It is a difficult time. The Persians invited the leaders of the Jews to return after a generation in exile, but as their subjects. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah give the background to this and it is obvious that many of those who returned were not happy. They were uncertain why they were there and what they were supposed to do.

The author instructed them very shrewdly. The residents of Jerusalem would have prayed the Psalms probably from memory. They would have known Psalm 72, part of which reads:

O God, give your judgment to the king; 

your justice to the son of kings;

That he may govern your people with justice,

your oppressed with right judgment,

3 That the mountains may yield their bounty for the people,

and the hills great abundance,

4 That he may defend the oppressed among the people,

save the poor and crush the oppressor.  Psalm 72:2–4


What does this mean when there is no king? Simply that the entire people, or at least those residing in Jerusalem, have taken on the role of King. As usual with the Old Testament, we first see this negatively. In the chapter immediately before what we read this week:


1 Lo, the hand of the LORD is not too short to save,

nor his ear too dull to hear.

2 Rather, it is your crimes

that separate you from your God,

It is your sins that make him hide his face

so that he will not hear you. (Isaiah 59:1-2)


These sins are from injustice:


No one brings suit justly,

no one pleads truthfully;

They trust in emptiness and tell lies;

they conceive mischief and bring forth malice. Isaiah 59:4


The verdict of Deuteronomy is always present. When the people act justly, they prosper; when they do not, they falter. It is easy to blame a corrupt political or moral system, but the prophets will not have it. This is partly true, but nothing can exempt anyone from acting justly.


Also, common however in the Old Testament is the promise of reversal – that the reward for justice is prosperity and respect among the nations. We see that in the opening verses today:


1 Rise up in splendor! Your light has come,

the glory of the Lord shines upon you.

2 See, darkness covers the earth,

and thick clouds cover the peoples;

But upon you the LORD shines,

and over you appears his glory. Isaiah 60:1–2


The light is the presence of God which accomplishes all things, including the gathering of all the tribes – traditionally the task of kings.


4 Raise your eyes and look about;

they all gather and come to you:

Your sons come from afar,

and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Isaiah 60:4

The respect of the nations is more than just words, these are physical people, and everything must be in physical terms.

For the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,

the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.

6 Caravans of camels shall fill you,

dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;

All from Sheba shall come

bearing gold and frankincense,

and proclaiming the praises of the LORD. Isaiah 60:5–6

Note the reference to Sheba, and remember that the queen of Sheba brought gifts to King Solomon. This reflects the past; interesting, however are the feelings towards the foreign nations.

During the exile, Ezekiel wrote:

You have admitted foreigners, uncircumcised both in heart and flesh, to my sanctuary to profane it when you offered me food, fat, and blood; thus you have broken my covenant by all your abominations.  Ez 44:7


In the passage which follows what we read today:

7 All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered for you,

the rams of Nebaioth shall be your sacrifices;

They will be acceptable offerings on my altar,

and I will enhance the splendor of my house. Isaiah 60:7 (NAB)



13 The glory of Lebanon shall come to you:

the cypress, the plane and the pine,

To bring beauty to my sanctuary,

and glory to the place where I set my feet. Isaiah 60:13

For this author, they rebuild the Temple and provide the offerings. This reflects Isaiah 49 on the vocation of the people of Israel:

6 It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,

to raise up the tribes of Jacob,

and restore the survivors of Israel;

I will make you a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6

Last week, we saw that the transition to Kingship could only be accomplished for Jews with the aid of a prophet. We see the same here. There is much conflict and contradiction, but a path is found not by administrators or soldiers or priests but by prophets.

As we begin 2019, we may feel like the Jews in Jerusalem asking: “what happened”? Who will make sense of this? In Jewish and Christian terms, “Where are our prophets?” When Pope Francis addressed Congress in 2015, one of the four Americans he mentioned was Abraham Lincoln. As the Civil War, the bloodiest and cruelest upheaval our country has ever faced, was coming to an end, Lincoln wrote in his Second Inaugural Address:

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan  to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

His interpretation of the moment that charity and generosity were needed, not violence and revenge, was an extraordinary and unwanted insight. It was prophecy in action. Like Isaiah over two millennia before, he was perhaps the only person who could see it clearly and say it eloquently. Enough who heard Isaiah followed him and Judaism has survived and prospered. We have perhaps not followed Lincoln closely enough, which is why the Pope had to include Martin Luther King in his address – enough so that we have stumbled by. Given the gravity of our situation, God will send us  prophets who will share extraordinary and unwanted insights as well.

Will we hear? Will we follow?