Sts. Basil the Great & Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops & Doctors of the Church
1 John 2:22-28 + John 1:19-28
All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
Just as Eastertide culminates in the feast of Pentecost, so Christmastide culminates in the feast of the Epiphany. The purpose of a liturgical season is not to celebrate a single feast—in the case of Christmastide, the Nativity—over and over again. The season’s purpose is gradually to shift one’s focus from one feast to another feast. A liturgical season is a panorama of feasts.
You can hear such a shift in today’s scriptures. For example, the refrain of today’s Responsorial is: “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” This refrain could just as fittingly be proclaimed on Pentecost Sunday as on the feast of the Epiphany. In turn, that fact points out that the culminating feasts of Christmastide and Eastertide—that is, the Epiphany and Pentecost—have an important point in common: “the nations”. Everything that God seeks to accomplish throughout salvation history is for “the nations”, not merely for a single nation or people. This is the mission of the Church that Jesus founded. The Church’s mission is “catholic”: which is to say, “universal”.
However, there’s an additional contrast to be noted when reflecting upon this Responsorial refrain. Not only must “the nations” be contrasted against any single nation or people of the earth. Within the current Western culture, it’s important to reflect upon how “the nations” stand in contrast to the individual. God Himself wills that no individual enter into covenant—that is, relationship—with Him unless it be through His people. His people are all “the ends of the earth”, where His Church continues the saving work of Jesus Christ.