Saturday after Epiphany

Today’s Gospel is an apt conclusion to the Christmas Season, since it’s always the last Gospel before Ordinary Time resumes with the Baptism of the Lord. John’s disciples are concerned that Jesus’ ministry is gaining more traction than his, and John reminds them that he was always called to pave the way for the Christ, not to be his competition. John is happy to “decrease,” even to martyrdom, so that Our Lord may increase. During Advent the readings focused many times on John the Baptist; with the Baptism of the Lord tomorrow we see John’s work concluding and him “passing the baton” to Our Lord.

As believers we are all called to pave the way for Our Lord to come into the lives of others. As the First Reading reminds us today, we have a spiritual responsibility to them, to pray for them to receive the gift of conversion and turn away from sin to embrace Our Lord. Even today, as John warned in today’s First Reading, there are idols that try to take the place of Our Lord, and the Evil One is happy to let us stumble into idolatry out of ignorance, putting money, power, or pleasure in first place. Our Lord has come into the world to show us who we should truly follow: him. John knew, and we know too.

Let”s examine ourselves on this last day of the Christmas season and see whether we’re putting anything before Our Lord. If we put him first, others will see the importance of putting him first too.

Readings: 1 John 5:14–21; Psalm 149:1–5, 6a, 9b; John 3:22–30.


Christmas, January 7th (after Epiphany)

In today’s First Reading the apostle John warns believers to test the spirits to see if the are from God before trusting them. Not every spirit or every inspiration is necessarily a good one, and one way to test a spirit is to see if it stands the test of time. If some impulse or inspiration changes radically, another spirit has come into play.

One way in which the Church knows it is united in the same Spirit with which it was founded is by Tradition: the teachings of the Church, teachings that come from the teachings Our Lord himself gave to the apostles, must logically have a continuity that endures. In today’s Gospel Our Lord begins his public ministry preaching the same message as John, whose mission is drawing to a close: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He proclaims the “Gospel of the Kingdom” and, in that same Spirit, so do we. If some spirit enters into us that contradicts that Spirit and that Gospel we can be sure it does not come from God, as well as any spirit that makes us lose faith in Our Lord.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us follow his Spirit: the Holy Spirit.

Readings:1 John 3:22–4:6; Psalm 2:7bc–8, 10; Matthew 4:12–17, 23–25.


Christmas, January 7th

Note: These readings are used when Epiphany is observed on a Sunday January 7th or 8th.

Today’s Gospel presents the perfect turning point from the Christmas season to Ordinary Time, which begins soon with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. John today knows his mission is almost finished, and it has been successful. He has worked and sacrificed for this moment, the moment when the “Lamb of God,” to use John the Evangelist’s expression, would come and take away the sins of the world. John’s disciples don’t understand; they see Jesus’ gain as John’s loss, as competition, but for John it is a moment of joy, just as the best man is glad to see his friend getting married to a wonderful bride.

In a world that prides itself on self-advancement and self-fulfillment John reminds us that in making others succeed and shine we are fulfilling a greater purpose and will be more blessed as a result. John is content because Jesus is starting to shine. John will still have his moment of darkness in prison, but ultimately the light of Christ will shine when he needs it as well, just before his martyrdom.

At the conclusion of the Christmas season we’re reminded that John and Jesus dedicated themselves to others. Let’s ask the Lord to show us today how we can help others to succeed and to shine as well. It’s the greatest path to fulfillment. Let’s not be afraid about decreasing so that someone we love may increase.

Readings: 1 John 5:14–21; Psalm 149:1–5, 6a, 9b; John 3:22–30.

Friday after Epiphany

In today’s Gospel Our Lord doesn’t want word of healing a leper getting out, but it does. As the news starts to spread, he doesn’t decide to hold a press conference and bask in the admiration of others; rather, he withdraws to be alone and pray. His workload has increased due to word getting around about the miraculous healing, and he doesn’t shy away from it, but he also does not sacrifice his prayer life.

Today Our Lord is teaching us that we all need to take stock of how much quiet prayer time we’re reserving for him. When the weekend comes, is it just a change of noise and activity for us? Perhaps if the leper had paused for a moment of silent prayer and thanksgiving he would have realized that the best way to thank Our Lord would have been to respect his wishes and keep the matter private. Still, Our Lord harbored no resentment toward the leper contributing to an increased workload. That kind of peace and understanding no matter what is thrown at you is a fruit of silence, recollection, and prayer.

The new year is barely a week old, and it’s not too late to make a new resolution. Make a resolution to spend a little time each day in silence, alone with Our Lord, and you’ll be amazed by the peace it gives you throughout the day.

Readings: 1 John 5:5–13; Psalm 147:12–15, 19–20; Luke 5:12–16. See also 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

Thursday after Epiphany

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that history has changed with his Incarnation and birth. The things hoped for and prophesied were starting to come true. Today Jesus is addressing the people of his home town. We can overlook how incredible it is that God has a home town at all outside of Heaven. However, he doesn’t try profiting from the home advantage: when he comments on the passage from Isaiah he’d just read, he tells them God’s promises are coming true, and that’s why he’s there: to usher in a new relationship and union with God and an end to evil.

The list of wonders he recalls today don’t just stand on their own. It is Christ who brings us joy, whether we’re spiritually or materially poor. It is Christ who frees us from the evils in which we incarcerate ourselves through our sins. It is Christ who helps us to see when things are dark and uncertain. Lastly, it is he who frees us from the dominion of evil. He doesn’t just do the miracle and go home; he remains a part of our lives and, therefore, nothing can remain the same.

The Christmas season is still with us for a few days. Ask Our Lord to help you to see, to fill you with joy, and to free you from whatever separates you from him. Make this a year acceptable to the Lord.

Readings: 1 John 4:19–5:4; Psalm 72:1–2, 14, 15bc, 17; Luke 4:14–22. See also 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B and 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.