Epiphany 2018 Father Shawn Hughes

January 7th, 2018

Father Shawn Hughes


Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week.  Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it.  ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time.  If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.  

God bless you.

In the visit of the Magi we see a clash between the values of this fallen world and the values of eternity.  The Magi  ask King Herod where the Christ child, The Anointed One, The Messiah who is King of the Jews, is.  Immediately we see a clash between our self-sacrificial King, our God and Saviour, and the self-serving authority of this world, King Herod.

The Magi are wise men, probably scientists, astrologers, from the east…they are steeped in learning…they are searching for the truth…and in their “bowing down” before the Christ child we see their openness and readiness to obey the truth.  The same openness we first saw in Mary and in Joseph.

Already this gospel begs the question of each of us…am I completely open and ready to obey the truth?

The wise men say…“we saw” and “we came”.  This is the essence of the attitude of every soul…we receive insight and we immediately act.

Yesterday in his homily for Epiphany Pope Francis said that if we are to find Jesus one of the essential things we must do is set out just as the Magi do.

The Holy Father said:   “The star demands a decision to take up the journey and to advance tirelessly on our way,” he said. “It demands that we free ourselves from useless burdens and unnecessary extras that only prove a hindrance, and accept unforeseen obstacles along the map of life.”

In light of this gospel I need to ask myself:  what are my useless burdens…What are my unnecessary extras that are a hindrance in my journey…What are the unforeseen obstacles or burdens that I need to accept?

Jesus, the Pope said, allows himself to be found by those who are looking for him, however, in order to find him ourselves, “we need to get up and go, not sit around but take risks, not stand still, but set out.”

“Jesus makes demands: he tells those who seek him to leave behind the armchair of worldly comforts and the reassuring warmth of hearth and home.”

The Magi saw the Eternal King’s star and immediately they came to adore him.   They are a perfect example to us Christians.   The wise person seeks truth, and when he finds it, he doesn’t hesitate to adore it…. to subject Himself to it.  The Magi say the goal of their entire journey is to adore, the Greek word is proschunaysay.   It means literally to venerate the King by “bending down to the ground”, before Him.  Once truth is found we bow down to it, surrender ourselves completely to it, serve it completely.

It is the gesture of our hearts, if not our bodies, every time we pray, every time we come into His presence. Every time we come before the Truth.

The Truth claims us whole…for itself, and we bow down in surrender before it…we are truly blessed  if we can manage to surrender ourselves wholly to the Truth, body and soul.

King Herod, is a petty king, subject to Roman authority, has his power to protect, so he felt threatened by this King of the Jews.  Herod calls Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed of God.  He knows, and in theory accepts, what Christ is; but he does not accept it for himself.  His knowledge of Christ impels him to hatred and not to adoration.  The existence of Christ threatens his existence.

Herod is the prototype of those who spend time, energy and talents fearfully protecting their illusions of power and control.  What is really grotesque in the gospel’s portrait of Herod is that he accepts unquestioningly the authenticity of the star seen by the Magi.  He accepts unquestioningly that the prophecy of the Messiah, the Anointed One of God has been fulfilled…and yet, he is so consumed in protecting his ambition and power that he plans to destroy what he says he wants to adore.

Herod plans to destroy what he knows he ought to adore so that he can continue to feed his all consuming passion for control, power, success…in the eyes of the world.  In light of this gospel…we must ask…at times are we,…who have a profound knowledge and experience of God in the Church and the great gift of the Sacraments,… Are we immediately incited to acts of adoration and charity which by nature such knowledge and experience ought to provoke us, or are we, like Herod, blinded by the values of this world focused inward, threatened by the other… threatened by the Truth?

The Magi bring the Christ child gifts.  They knew that, if this Child was worthy of adoration, there was nothing they could give him he did not already possess.  The gifts are symbolic.  The gifts are a confession of what the Magi take the receiver of their gift to be and the gifts communicate what the gift-bearers are and want to give.

The gifts have a sacramental nature to them.  They signal externally that an interior event of the greatest magnitude is taking place.  The treasures refer to the most precious acts of which humankind is capable.  With their gold they confess him to be king and thus they “open up” the treasure of the human ability to believe – the Treasure of Faith.  With their incense they worship him as God and thus “open up” the Treasure of Adoration, the human ability to surrender and turn over one’s whole person to the one true Lord.  With the myrrh, which the Jews used for burial, they are announcing his coming Passion and thus, opening up the Treasure of Evangelization, the human ability to participate in the work of salvation by prophetically proclaiming to the world the redemption wrought by Christ.

Their gesture of bending down low to the child and of offering him mysterious gifts is an invitation for us to accomplish in the heart of the world – even if the world does not want to see or to know it –  acts of love, of praise, and of faithful adherence that manifest to the world who it is that we have found.

By such a persistent presence in the midst of the world, love works quietly to sabotage the world’s refusal to welcome its Saviour.

The Magi found the truth.  Their great search had come to an end.  They were overwhelmed with joy.  They returned home by a different road…they returned home changed by their encounter with the Truth for which they had been seeking…they returned home to be that persistent presence of love and joy in the midst of their world in service to Him who is the Truth they had found.

This solemnity this evening also calls us to be that persistent presence of love and joy where we find ourselves.   …It calls us to accomplish in the heart of our world,…at work, on campus, in our homes…acts of love, acts of praise and of faithful adherence…that manifest to our world that we have found, know and love,…the Truth, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

As Pope Francis says, this gospel   “demands a decision to take up the journey and to advance tirelessly on our way,”