1 Epiphany

Isa. 43:1-7Ps. 29Acts 8:14-17Luke 3:15-17, 21-23

The Lord stoops to behold the heavens and the earth (Ps. 113:6). So too heavenly hosts look down to earthly being, but not before ascribing praise to whom all praise is due, Being Itself. The heavens declare the glory of God: “Glory! Strength! Holy Splendor!” (Ps. 29:1-2). Looking and listening, godly beings hear the voice of the Lord over the mighty waters, in the crashing thunderclap, in winds that break the cedars, twist the oaks, and strip the forest bare. In full view, God sits enthroned over the flood, a lake of flashing fire. Remarkably, impossibly, this very God does and will give strength to his people, give them peace in a trembling world (Ps. 29:1-11).

The promise is sure — “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33) — and is matched to a more powerful word. “I created you, I formed you, I redeemed you, I have called you by my name, you are mine” (Isa. 43:1). The waters rage, but you will pass through them. The fire roars, but it will not touch you. “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up,’ and to the south, ‘Do not withhold’” (Isa. 43:5). Still, this is a promise issued against the backdrop of a dangerous world. It can only be received as a gift and held from moment to moment in faith, an inner mantra: “Do not fear, for I am with you.”

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This promise gets down to earth in the dawn of a new day, the arrival of Christ Jesus our Lord. He recreates, reforms, and redeems humanity by assuming all that we are into his divine life. As we are baptized into his life, his burning presence becomes our own. If not, apostolic help is on the way. Peter and John “went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:15). This new life in Christ ignites from within and emanates out. “He,” John the Baptist says, “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

Who are we? When God at first made man, God gave everything but a restful life (St. Augustine, George Herbert). So we have wandered with an aching and broken heart to which, in the fullness of time, God has come. “It is as if God the Father sent to earth a money-bag full of his mercy. The bag burst open at the Lord’s passion to pour forth its hidden content — the price of our redemption” (St. Bernard, Sermo 1 in Epiphania Domini, 1-2). Blood flows, water flows, fire erupts: an effusion of new life wherever Christ is. His treasure is pouring out of the people in whom he dwells. Do we sense it? Do we see it?

The flame of Christ is also a tongue of fire that speaks (Acts 2:3). Bearing witness to our spirit, truth speaking the truth, he says, “Do not fear, for I am with you” and “you are my child and my delight” (Isa. 43:5, Luke 3:22). A woman named Catherine heard him once say, “My dearest daughter, I have decreed my mercy in all the world and I want to provide for all humans everywhere and in every situation. … I created humanity with providence; and I looked into myself and I was captivated by the love of my creation” (Dialogue on Divine Providence, Catherine of Siena).

Look It Up: Read Isa. 43:7. Share God’s name.

Think About It: Only God can ignite you with the life of his Son; only God can speak the words, “My most dear daughter.”

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