Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Epiphany - God Appearing

An epiphany, according to the dictionary, is the manifestation of a supernatural or divine reality or any moment of great or sudden revelation. In Christianity, the Epiphany is God revealing Himself to the Gentiles as represented by the visit of the three magi to see the newborn king in Bethlehem.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,  "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him."  . . and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;  and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. ~ Matthew 2: 1-2, 9-12
The Church celebrates the feast of the Epiphany (officially January 6 - the 12th day of Christmas) on the Sunday closest to the actual feast. This year, on the feast of the Epiphany, Fr. Neil Bucklein, pastor of Ascension Catholic Church in Hurrican, West Virginia experienced a special gift - a sort of miracle - during Mass. Catholic media has interviewed him and he has placed his story on his blog, Our Blessed Mother's Children. The secular media hasn't touched his story as far as I can tell.

His post on January 2nd, when the Church celebrated the feast of the Epiphany this year, is somewhat prophetic and doesn't speak of the miracle. It is a quote from Open Wide the Door to Christ (p.5) which were the words of Pope John Paul II that have been taken up by our new pontiff, Benedict XVI. It is a description of the problem in our culture that is so preoccupied with self.
"A person who is preoccupied with himself and his own illusory treasures, or that which contaminates the soul, prevents himself from hearing the sound of the Lord's knocking. Such an individual responds to God by saying: 'Not now. I'm busy .. maybe later. Right now I do not have time'." 
Fr. Buchlein first mentions the miracle on his blog the next day - January 3rd - when he posted a photo of the purificator he used on the feast of the Epiphany. On it is a heart. He talks about his experience and posts the message from Medjugorge from the feast of the Annunciation given on March 25, 1999.

In his Epiphany homily, Fr. Buchlein veered from his planned talk and challenged the congregation to speak up about a blasphemous commercial that was in the running to be aired during the superbowl. In the commercial, a priest distributes Doritoes and Pepsi-Max instead of the Eucharist in order to get people to come back to the Church. This mockery of Holy Communion, specifically Catholics who believe that Communion is in fact the Body and Blood of Christ, is painful and may be offensive even to Christians who believe that communion is a memorial only. This doesn't happen to Muslims and Jews. Fox News Channel was all over it.

Returning to Fr. Buchlein's story, after Holy Communion on the Epiphany, he noticed the heart-shaped stain on the purificator that appeared to be blood. At first, he began to analyze how it might have gotten there, but knew in his heart that it was a special gift to him and his parish and he shared it with his congregation.

Since then, he had more photos taken of the purificator and he posted them on his blog.

close-up of the heart with enhancement

Cathollic Radio station WTMR in Philadelphia interviewed Fr. Buchlein on January 13 and Drew Mariani of Relevant Radio interviewed him on January 14. They discuss how in the close-up photos, you can clearly see in the right chamber of the heart the image of a well formed fetus. Jesus was revealed to the world as an infant at the Epiphany. Coincidence? I think not!

A closer look reveals other images. Fr. Buchlein says that the right chamber of the heart also reveals part of the face of Christ in his passion. And in the middle of the heart is the silhouette of a woman holding a child (the Blessed Mother).

Although this is a gift - maybe even a miracle - the Catholic Church has a miracle that takes place every day on every alter in every Catholic Church around the world. Jesus makes Himself present in the form of bread and wine and dwells with us intimately in every Holy Communion. That is the miracle that really counts! True believers need no proof. It is a matter of faith.

Look at the image of the fetus and pray, pray, pray for the unborn and the reversal of Roe vs. Wade. Pray for our culture - what Pope John Paul II called the Culture of Death - a culture of complete preoccupation with self. It is the antithesis of the Gospel message that calls us to sacrifice for others as Jesus did.
"A person who is preoccupied with himself and his own illusory treasures, or that which contaminates the soul, prevents himself from hearing the sound of the Lord's knocking. Such an individual responds to God by saying: 'Not now. I'm busy .. maybe later. Right now I do not have time'."  ~ Open Wide the Door to Christ (p.5)
Let us hear the Lord knocking - NOW! Let us enjoy communion with the Lord - NOW! It isn't too late - YET!
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. ~ Revelation 3:20

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