The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was convened in an era of cultural upheaval and challenge. Pope John XXIII inaugurated the Council mindful of the “signs of the times.”
His successor, Pope Paul VI, continued and completed this historic gathering, the purpose of which was to proclaim the Gospel message of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a Word of redemption and truth written on the human heart, in the context of the modern age. Its message was not new. The Council echoed the continuous teaching of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
In the last weeks of the liturgical year, the Church provides for us, in her readings and prayers, a meditation on the final glorious coming of Jesus. He is the Son of Man come to judge the living and the dead. He is the eternal King, whose reign is our peace, and whose Kingdom, even now, provides the context for our continuing conversion.
As we begin the Advent season, our eyes and heart are also directed to the coming of the King, the newborn King of Bethlehem. He is Emmanuel, “God with us,” who, in the mystery of the Incarnation has united Himself in some way to every human person. (See Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, no. 22)
Epiphany is a Feast Day within the Church’s liturgical celebration of Christmas. In the current Western tradition, we associate it with the “Visit of the Magi,” or visitors from the East recounted in Matthew’s Gospel. (Mt 2:1-12). Epiphany is traditionally celebrated the 12th day after Christmas, (Twelfth Night), January 6th. In the Catholic dioceses of the United States this feast has been moved to the Sunday after January 6.
Epiphany takes its name from the Greek epiphania, a manifestation. Jesus, born quietly in Bethlehem’s stable, is revealed, or made manifest, as the Son of God. In the recognition of Him by the Magi, the Christ, He is revealed to the “nations.” (see, for example, Is 42:6; Is 60: 1-6; and Psalm 72:11)
In the Catholic tradition, November is the month of the Poor Souls in Purgatory. It begins with the Solemn Feast of All Saints (November 1) and the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2). However, the season to pray for the souls in purgatory is always.
It is helpful to reflect during this season of the Resurrection – the fifty days of Easter – on our duty to pray for those who are undergoing the purification required to ready them for heaven. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1030) Although they live in the sure hope that they will see God in everlasting life, the souls in Purgatory count on our prayers. They are helpless to assist themselves.
Our Lord Jesus Christ announces, “the Kingdom of God is at hand!” What does this mean, and how do we respond? In a number of places, Jesus, (Mt 4:17, Mk 1:15) and, in anticipation of Jesus, St John the Baptist, (Mt 3:2) calls us to repentance because of the arrival of the Kingdom. In the citation from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says that “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom is at hand, so repent, and believe in the Gospel.” In Luke, the work of announcing the Kingdom is entrusted to the disciples.
But what happened to get the Kingdom “started?”