For Sunday, January 8, 2012
The Epiphany of the Lord
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
When he first discovered it in 1982, chemist Daniel Shechtman could not believe what he was seeing. His colleagues could not believe it either. His discovery was so controversial, that he was asked to leave his position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Washington, DC, and was ridiculed by some of his peers. When he published his results, the famous Dr. Linus Pauling, head of the American Chemical Society, said that Dr. Shechtman was “talking nonsense.”
Yet other scientists admitted to Dr. Shechtman that they too had seen similar structures, which they could not explain.
Dr. Shechtman’s discovery was quasicrystals, a crystal made up of perfectly ordered, but never repeating, units—a structure that is at odds with all other crystals that are regular and precisely repeating. In 2011, nearly thirty years after Dr. Shechtman first made his discovery, he was awarded the Nobel prize for chemistry in recognition of his groundbreaking work.
But recently, what was once thought to exist only in the laboratory, has now been found in the natural world. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of scientists explain how the discovering of quasicrystals in rocks from Russia’s Koryak mountains came to be. They suggest that meteorites fashioned the quasicrystals naturally in a high-velocity impact and that they remain stable over cosmic timescales.
The natural world continues to surprise scientists as they discover more and more about the wonders of creation.
In some ways, the Magi were the scientists of their day. They searched the heavens for signs. Whether we call them astrologers or Wise Men, their work was as arcane to the common folk of their era as is the research of physicists to most of us today.
Whatever we make of Matthew’s star—contrived or real—the point is that the Magi saw in it a manifestation of the divine in this world. The star pointed the way to the newborn King who is the true light of the world. And for Matthew that meant a new and unbelievable thing: the Messiah was not only for the Jewish people. He was for the whole world, Jews and Gentiles alike.
When Dr. Shechtman first discovered quasicrystals he is said to have exclaimed, “There can be no such creature,” so much did the physical properties of his discovery seem to violate all that he knew and believed about the structure of crystals. Now we know that quasicrystals can not only be contrived in the laboratory, but that they can also occur in nature.
God continues to challenge our beliefs. God continues to surprise us. In the wonder of the Incarnation God calls us to see that the divine and the human are joined as one. In the mystery of the Epiphany, it is revealed that the Christ comes for all people, not just for some.
And in the final days of Jesus on earth, God makes manifest that through death, there is everlasting life.
Science will continue to probe at creation, and to discover more and more wonders in this great and glorious universe that God has brought into being. All of these scientific revelations continue to open up the mysteries of the created world. But it is the revelations of faith which will ultimately lead us to the newborn King, who unites our human nature to the divine.
God of mercy and love,
the brightness of a star led the Magi to the newborn King.
May our faith draw us closer to him
who through his incarnation,
unites our human nature
with his glorious divinity.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
LITURGICAL NOTE ON THE EPIPHANY
The new translation of the Roman Missal now includes texts for the Vigil Mass of the Epiphany. While the readings remain the same, you may want to consider using the vigil prayers on Saturday night. The Missal also includes “The Announcement of Easter and the Moveable Feasts,” which can be proclaimed after the Gospel and before the homily on the Epiphany.
NATIONAL MIGRATION WEEK
Resources for National Migration Week, January 8–14, are now available from the USCCB. Visit their Web site at: www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugeeservices/national-migration-week/. In addition, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has prepared special materials for the Epiphany in both English and Spanish. They are freely available to anyone at: www.archmil.org/Resources/Epiphany2012.htm.
NATIONAL VOCATION AWARENESS WEEK
The USCCB has set National Vocation Awareness Week for January 9–14. The news release from the USCCB, along with links to resources, can be found at: www.usccb.org/news/2011/11-241.cfm.
WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes place January 18–25. Resources are available from several sources, including the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/weeks-prayerdoc/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20110414_week-prayer-2012_en.html) and from the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute (http://www.geii.org/). Many dioceses encourage communal prayer to bring an end to the scandal of separation among Christians.
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