Daily Reflection
January 6th, 2000
Tom Shanahan, S.J.
Jesuit Community
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Epiphany of the Lord - Solemnity (International)
1 John 4:19--5:4
Psalms 72:1-2, 14-15, 17
Luke 4:14-22

One of my more vivid memories of several years ago took place on a golf course in Chicago.  I was golfing with my brother, Richard, when, seemingly apropos of nothing, Dick put his arm around my shoulder from the side and said as he squeezed my shoulder, “This is how God loves us.”   I was a bit taken aback, but then he went on to explain the truth of his gesture: that God as a totally spiritual reality, needs to come to us spiritual-corporeal critters in ways that we can grasp and understand.  So his hug was a sacrament of his own love and of God’s love for me.

It makes such good sense when you think about it.  The truth is that God does love us through others.  Think of the love of a mother and father for an infant son or daughter.  The child comes to know God’s love through the parents.  And there are so many sacrifices that parents undergo for love of children from feeding, waking up in the middle of the night to soothing the child after a bad dream, to letting go as the child-adult leaves the nest, and so many other points along the way of growth.  God’s love gets expressed sacramentally through mother and father.

Or to put it in a more theoretical way we are sacramental people.  The readings in today’s liturgy bring this out quite well.  The readings continue the theme of the wonderful feast of the Epiphany.  Literally epiphany means the showing forth of a divine reality.  Epiphany reminds us of the importance of the sacramental in our lives.   In the first reading from 1 John the logic of the love of God shown through the love of the brother/sister is affirmed.  The Gospel reading lists the very concrete ways that the kingdom of God was predicted to appear in the reading from the Prophet Isaiah: recovery of sight to the blind, release of prisoners, and the poor being tended.  After Jesus reads this passage he announces ringingly, “today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus’ quoting from this passage of Isaiah has a special significance for the year 2000, a year of Jubilee.  In the Jewish tradition years of Jubilee occurred every 50 years and they were times characterized by very human concerns:  debts are remitted, slaves are freed, and the land is to lie fallow.  These signs, like the signs of the Kingdom of God, are concrete ways that God’s goodness comes to us.  In a word, they are sacraments of God’s own love.

The bumper-sticker that asks, “Have you hugged your kid today?”, gets at a fundamental truth.  My brother’s gesture of his – and God’s – love for me strikes the same note.  So, when I ask myself how much I love God, I believe the answer is the same as how much do I love “the brother that is seen” as the passage from 1 John says today. 

Can we dare to ask, “Have I hugged God today?”  I think so!

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