Reflection and Dialogue: Epiphany, Ecumenism, the Holy Spirit, the Sin of the World.
In this Sunday’s liturgy we are still under the influence of the spirit of the Epiphany, and also of ecumenism as we draw near to the feast of the Conversion of St Paul (25 January) and the prayers for the Church Unity Octave that accompany it. The Magi who visited the new-born Jesus, king of the Jews, were representative of a non-Jewish pagan people, a people looking forward to redemption by God. The answer would come with the resurrection of Jesus and his command to have to the good news preached to the ends of the earth. In our own day churches conscious of the divisions among themselves are seeking ways of coming closer together. In the early days of this ecumenical movement, the Catholic Church believed it arose from, or would foster, indifferentism in religion, and remained aloof from it, until it too came to realize that this movement was from the Holy Spirit and is now actively engaged in this quest for greater unity. From the epiphany at the Baptism of Jesus onwards, the Holy Spirit has been revealing Jesus to the world more and more, and in our own day continues to do so. We now experience a lively dialogue between lay society and the Church. The Church is often accused of being alien to the mind, the values and the aspirations of the world in which we live. A word that is scarcely mentioned from the lay side in all this dialogue is the word “sin”. Practices and teachings of the Church are criticised, and frequent references are made to Christ, as if the Church were not faithful to his teaching and mission, omitting any connection between Christ and sin, Christ the Lamb of God who reveals, shows up, and takes away sin, the sin of the world. In this ongoing dialogue between the Church and contemporary society the many message of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ should be borne in mind.