First off, as we stand on this Sunday of Epiphany at the end of the Christmas season, I need to relieve myself of the burden of thankfulness that I feel toward all those, too numerous to mention, who have worked incredibly hard to make all of our Advent and Christmas celebrations an experience of prayer for the thousands who came to our church, hoping to go home with a bit more light, a bit more hope, a bit more gospel than they had when they came. In their name, in the name of all the parishioners, profound and sincere thanks to all of you – you know who you are – who have given so generously of your time, talent, and energy, so that others might celebrate Christmas. May God provide you with the same gospel that you have made available to us all, through your devotion to our community`s Advent and Christmas prayer.
Secondly, on this feast of the Epiphany, I want to draw your attention to the wonderful reading from the prophet Isaiah: “The Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you…” Is 60:2-4
They come to you. There is much talk in the Church nowadays about “New Evangelization”. We are looking for ways to evangelize, in our world that appears to be becoming less Christian every day. I am profoundly struck by the manner in which this text from Isaiah suggests that evangelization is supposed to happen. It’s not as much a matter of going out into the world and proclaiming the gospel, as it is a matter of divine initiative. “The glory of the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.” As a result, “nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you!” If this text is intended to be indicative of how evangelization works, and I truly believe that it is, then it is a stunning revelation. God comes to us. He transfigures us. And people from the outside are drawn to us, because they see in us a light, a grace, a transformation that they know plainly does not come from us because they know that we are ordinary people, just like them. My experience bears this out. As a matter of fact, they do come to us. They come to us out of everywhere and out of nowhere, drawn to us by a distinct impression that we know something that they don’t know, that we hold a treasure, that we are changed by the gospel in which we believe. And my strictly personal experience of slow conversion also bears this out. I have never been so deeply touched by any gospel message that was communicated to me as I have been by holiness, by human lives clearly transformed, transfigured, “morphed” into the likeness of Christ. I am convinced that while many things contribute to evangelization, nothing evangelizes as effectively as a life, a person transformed by the grace of God, by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Nothing attracts people to the gospel and to the Church so much as holiness.
It is all God’s doing. And so, we are left, as always, with a prayer. Dear God, for the sake of the revelation of your light to the Gentiles shine on us, shine through us, so that they might be drawn – not to our light, but to your light shining in and through us. Grant us holiness, as individuals, as a church, so that others might be attracted to your light in us, and through us, to your Son, to His Gospel, to His Church. Holiness. It’s not the only means of evangelization that we have, but it’s certainly the most effective. Always has been. Always will be.
And so, in the words of Psalm 67 which we prayed on New Year’s Day, “may God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, so that his ways may be known upon earth, his saving power among all nations. God bless us all in 2018.