By Lisa Kochanowski
SOUTH BEND — Three Wise Men from the east followed a star to the newborn King of the Jews long ago with the words, “we have come to worship Him,” as their reason for traveling such a long distance. These words are what Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades challenged the congregation of St. Matthew Cathedral to think about in their daily life at the Jan. 8 Epiphany Mass.
Bishop Rhoades celebrated the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord with the parish community at 11 a.m. Mass. He entered the celebration with the three wise men, followed by a fanfare of trumpets, music and the scent of incense filling the air.
“A blessed Epiphany to all,” proclaimed Bishop Rhoades to the congregation at the beginning of Mass. He told the crowd that his visit to St. Matthew Cathedral was extra special with a unique gift of a crosier presented to him by Msgr. Michael Heintz. One side of the crozier has an image of St. Matthew and the other side has an image of the diocesan coat of arms.
“Thank you for this very special gift,” Bishop Rhoades said.
Epiphany is a celebration of the Magi and their quest to pay homage to the newborn King. This quest is a great example of true faith and devotion to God and something Bishop Rhoades spoke of in great detail with the faithful.
During the Mass, Father Jacob Runyon, parochial vicar at St. Matthew Church, sang a special liturgical-season proclamation.
“The Magi represent all the people of the world and reveal that Jesus has come not only as the Messiah of the Jewish people, but as the Savior of the whole world. As St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: ‘the Gentiles are coheirs … and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel,’” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily.
Bishop Rhoades spoke of how the Magi were confronted by Herod, who wanted to find out the reason for their journey. When told about their goal to pay homage to the King, Herod became inflamed with rage.
“Herod’s pride created within him contempt for the Lord,” Bishop Rhoades said. “He not only refused to worship Him; he actively sought to destroy Him. Early in the life of Jesus we see the great struggle between good and evil.”
In the end, “Herod could not thwart the saving plan of God,” Bishop Rhoades said.
He discussed the great strides that the Catholics Come Home campaign is making in the diocese, bringing people back to the Church and God.
Bishop Rhoades said he is overwhelmed with joy when he hears about Catholics returning to Mass after many years away from the Church. He pointed out to the crowd that people use excuses like they don’t like certain parts of the Mass or celebration as their reason for not coming to Church; but he told the people that a beautiful church, harmonious music and an amazing priest should not be the reason for coming to church — it should simply be about coming to worship God the Creator.
“I invite everyone here to reflect on these words spoken by pagan astrologers … these are words that should be on our lips,” Bishop Rhoades said. “You come here to worship and give homage to Jesus Christ, don’t come for the beautiful choir, the pretty decorations or great priests.”
Bishop Rhoades discussed how Blessed John Paul II, not long before
he died, spoke of the secularized culture of today as characterized by a forgetfulness of God and a vain pursuit of human self-sufficiency. Pope Benedict XVI has also spoken of this quite often. It is good to remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: “Without God the Creator, the creature would disappear.”
The congregation was invited by Bishop Rhoades to cultivate the attitude of the Magi. They were wise men because they recognized their need for God. They had a profound respect for their Creator and humbly prostrated themselves before Him. We imitate the Magi by our own fidelity
to holy Mass, by our daily prayer and by adoration of the most Holy Eucharist.
“We have come to worship Him. We don’t come to be entertained,” Bishop Rhoades said. “It’s our joy and our peace.”
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