I teach you the traditions and precedents as the NAME, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to possess. Do them carefully, for this is your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these traditions and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.” What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the NAME, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? What great nation has traditions and precedents that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?… the NAME spoke to you from the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. He proclaimed to you his brit, which he commanded you to keep: the Asher words, which he wrote on two stone tablets. At that time the NAME charged me to teach you the traditions and precedents for you to observe in the land you are about to cross into and possess. Deuteronomy 4:5-13
See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the NAME shines, and over you appears his importance. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. First Reading for Epiphany
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Beth lehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the Navy: And you, Beth lehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Gospel for Epiphany
All the readings for Epiphany concern the same thing, if we read the words in the original language, Hebrew and Aramaic. First, the Ten Mitzvah which come in Deuteronomy 5. Deuteronomy 4 speaks about them as the Asher Mitzvah. Asher, spelled with a “Y” means “ten.” The same word, spelled with an “A” means “Happy.” If one reads the ten commandments in Deuteronomy 5, one will find as many as 15 command statements, depending upon where one starts looking.
Read Asher as meaning Happy. If we do and we follow the commandments to make sure everyone is happy, we will be a wise and discerning people. God will be close to us and people will speak of us as having the closest God, the only true God with us. When God is with us, darkness may cover the earth our first reading says. The NAME, God, will shine upon us and give us his light, the light which tells us to care for other people. People will come to us for that light, a light that produces a society of no poverty, no crime, nobody in want, no violence.
It’s interesting how the first commandment in the Jewish count is, “Remember, I am God your almighty who rescued you from the land of oppression, the land of menial labor.” Remember what it was like to be there and remember your rescue. If we truly do this, it will hurt us when we see others suffer. To avoid our own pain, we will get that knot in our gut and do something.
We will be too busy stopping the suffering of others, to kill, steal, kidnap, give false witness or desire what belongs to others. What of desire as being the force that drives the economy? The root is to stop others suffering. Trade that benefits all does not cause suffering. Compare that with Communism, Capitalism, and Anarchism, all of which exploit others for personal gain. The Ten Commandments are not in any of these so called economic systems.
Many point out how most Christians can’t name all of the Ten Commandments. Generally, we can only mention the last six. The story of the Rich Young Man in the Gospels is an example of this. The rich young man remembers the last five, then remembers command number 4. Jesus brings him back to the first four. If we start here, we can forget the last six, for the reason already stated. In following the first one, we naturally follow all the others.
We’re Christians. We start with Beth Lechem, our house of bread in the land of Judah, thanksgiving. That is our Eucharist, which also means thanksgiving, where we find our salvation in a piece of bread, the baby Jesus laying in a feeding trough. We all get the same sized loaf of bread in the Eucharist, and if we desire, the same sized sip of wine. We follow Jesus, and that means all have adequate food, clothing, shelter, transportation (we remember the Blessed Virgin’s walking the hundred miles to Jerusalem and to Nazareth), healthcare, that is what Jesus did most of the time, and education, what he did the rest of his time.
We make no excuses for not providing any of these. We don’t say, let the church do it, most only give a percent and a half of their income to charity, and we don’t say, let the government do it. Government tends to be too big. We listen to Jesus’ great commandment, to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our animate being, and with all of our measure. If we’re patriotic, that means using our government to do those things. If we really care for the poor, when we see people hungry, we do something. When we see private charities asking for donations for these causes, we contribute. That includes the church.
The question for this Epiphany is, “Are we like the wise men bringing our full measure, or are we like Herod, who would kill the babe in the name of promoting his own interests.