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Father Cantalamessa on the Epiphany of the Lord

“We Celebrate Three Wondrous Events on This Holy Day”

ROME, JAN. 6, 2007 ( Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the liturgical readings for the solemnity of the Epiphany.

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The Signs of the Times
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

“We celebrate three wondrous events on this holy day: Today the star leads the Magi to the stable, today the water is changed into wine at the wedding feast at Cana, today Christ is baptized by John in the Jordan for our salvation.” With these words the liturgy describes today’s feast; it consists in the triple revelation of Christ: to the magi, at the wedding feast at Cana, and in Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. Since ancient times, that which has brought about the unification of these three events in a single feast is their common theme of manifestation (in Greek “epiphania”). In these events Jesus progressively reveals what he is in reality, the Messiah and savior.

Christ reveals himself to all peoples and to each category of persons with signs appropriate and comprehensible to them. To simple shepherds he sends an angel; to the wise who scrutinize the courses of the heavenly bodies he sends a star; to the Jews attached to signs, he gives a sign, that is, a miracle: He changes water into wine.

With what signs does Christ manifest himself to the men of our time? The Second Vatican Council gave important attention to the “signs of the times” (“Gaudium et Spes,” No. 11). Among these are the sense of solidarity and the interdependence that is developing between nations, Christian ecumenism, the promotion of the laity, the liberation of women, the new sense of religious freedom.

When Jesus spoke of the “signs of the times,” he meant above all the messianic signs: “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). Are there such signs today? Certainly there are! The blind receive the light of faith and hope through contact with the word of God; the spiritually lame (and sometimes the physically lame) get up and walk; those who are prisoners in themselves, of evil, or of men, are freed from their chains; in sum, people are converted and live through the power of Christ and his Spirit.

Jesus insists on one of these signs in particular: “The good news is announced to the poor” (Luke 7:22). Is not the concern, typical of our time, that the Gospel be preached to the poor, a sign that Christ is at work in the Church? Perhaps today we are able to discover a new meaning in that saying of Jesus: “The poor you will always have with you but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11); that is to say: When I am no longer with you physically, the poor who represent me will be with you: do to them what you would do to me!

The bringing of the Gospel to the poor may sometimes appear too slow and uncertain and not always consistent, but it would be unjust to deny that there is alive in the whole Church an interest, a zeal — which is also a positive sign — a strong feeling in regard to the poor, whether they be individuals or an entire people. It is a new consciousness that “manifests” the power of the word of Christ.

These are some of the signs of the epiphany of Christ that continue to manifest themselves among us. We all have the task of discovering and evaluating these signs and becoming ourselves a sign of the presence of Christ in the world!

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