09 Jan Epiphany of the Lord
Epiphany of the Lord January 6th, 2019
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little 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 and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
There is one thing that every human heart is absolutely starving for: someone to trust. Someone who not only will promise to never let us down, never judge us, never abandon us, but someone with enough goodness and enough power…to keep that promise. Every one of us needs someone we can lean on no matter what, through the sufferings and sorrows and the joys…someone we can go to no matter what, someone who will be glad to see us no matter what – someone who is utterly, totally, unhesitatingly, faithful. Often, for those of you who are married, that someone becomes your spouse. However, it is too much to even expect spouses to fulfill that foundational desire at the core of our being. Only God is can satisfy that desire at the core of every heart. Only God is that faithful.
The coming of the Wise Men to adore the baby Jesus is one of the Bible’s most beautiful proofs of God’s faithfulness. More than 500 years before Christ’s birth, as we heard in our first reading today, God had promised, through his prophet Isaiah, that he was going to lead “all the nations” to Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:3) to share in the light of salvation. He even promised that they would bring gold and incense. (Isaiah 60:6) In Psalm 72, that we just heard, he had made the same promise in different words “the kings of Tarshish and the coasts will pay him tribute; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall bring him gifts”. (Psalm 72:10) In spite of 500 years of wars, migrations, and historical turbulence that re-wrote the map of the civilized world three different times, God did what he said he was going to do. The Wise Men came from the non-Jewish world; they represent the nations. The Wise men come to Christ, they enter into the light of salvation bringing gifts. This shows us the goodness of God – he kept his promise. It also shows us that God is all-powerful – the ups and downs of history are under his control. The God who keeps his promises, who is all powerful, and all humble in his taking on human form…this is our God – the same one, like the Wise Men, we come to worship and adore today, who will give himself to us today in the Eucharist.
All of God’s goodness and power are ours, because we belong to Christ, and Christ is the human icon of God’s faithfulness. Emmanuel: God with us.
Knowing that God is faithful is the foundation of our whole spiritual life and has enormous consequences for our whole life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church outlines the implications of belief in God’s Faithful. It says such belief 223 means coming to know God’s greatness and majesty: and therefore we must “serve God first”.47 (St. Joan of Arc)
224 Such belief means living in thanksgiving: if God is the only One, everything we are and have comes from him: 225 It means knowing the unity and true dignity of all men and women: everyone is made in the image and likeness of God.50 (Genesis 1:26)
226 Such belief means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from him:
The Prayer of St. Nicholas of Flue…… states this beautifully:
My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you
227 Such belief means trusting God in every circumstance, even in adversity. The prayer on the front of your bulletins, next to the image of the Three Wisemen in Adoration of the Infant Jesus, is St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer that expresses this level of trust:
Let nothing trouble you
Let nothing frighten you
God never changes
Patience, obtains all
Whoever has God wants for nothing
God alone is enough!
On this Solemnity of the Epiphany, where God revealed Himself, not only to the Hebrew Nation, but that He has come for all nations…the Church is reminding us that we can count on him, that God is ever faithful and therefore we can trust him, and thus follow him just as the Wise Men followed the star. The Gospel says the Wise Men were “overwhelmed with joy” (Matthew 2:10) when the star stopped and they realized they had reached their goal. And if we trust that God is ever faithful, even if at times we can’t see it, we, like the Wise Men, will “be overwhelmed with joy”…filled with true Christian joy.
There is a wonderful story of true Christian Joy told about Pope St. John Paul II about a year before he died. He was already in seriously declining health. He couldn’t move himself around, he couldn’t speak clearly – he was an icon of pain and suffering. Everyone knew he wouldn’t be with us much longer. A bishop from the United States had a meeting with him, and at the end of their meeting, the bishop, with a sad look in his eyes, said to the Pope: “Holy Father, it saddens me to think that this is probably the last time I will see you. “John Paul II looked at him and said with a smile, “O really, Your Excellency? I didn’t know you were having health troubles.” Joy in suffering. Joy in absolute trust of God’s faithfulness. This is the kind of joy God gives us; a deep, strong, meaningful joy that can put our sufferings in their proper perspective.
Because God is faithful, we know that whatever happens, he will continue to guide our lives to their fulfillment, even during those times when, for short periods or long ones, we can’t see the star as clearly…. times of suffering and sorrow.
The Wise Men left their homelands far behind in order to follow the star, but right when they seemed to be arriving at their destination, the Scriptures tell us the star disappeared. That’s why St Matthew tells us that they were so overjoyed when they saw the star again after their meeting with King Herod. At some point in their journey, for some reason, they had lost sight of the star. If they had turned back at that point, they would never have found what they longed for.
Often we are in the same situation. We know God is faithful, and we want to trust him, but we lose sight of the star. That’s when we have to exercise our faith in God – to keep following Christ, to keep obeying the commandments and Church teaching, no matter how hard it may be.
Each of us knows someone (maybe it is ourselves) who has lost sight of the star.
- Maybe they are finding it hard to accept one of the Church’s teachings.
- Maybe they are facing suffering and loss.
- Maybe they are stuck in sin and are drifting further away from the light.
- Whatever their specific situation, they need to be reminded that God is faithful, that only by following him can our life journey be successful.
We have been reminded in today’s Scriptures that we can count on God. He is true to His promises…ever faithful…Even in adversity.
The Wise Men returned to their own country. Back to the trials and tribulations of their ordinary everyday lives. Yet changed. Totally Confident in God’s Faithfulness…I’m sure for their rest of their earthly lives expressing at the core of their being, no matter what…despite the suffering and sorrow of life, the foundational joy and trust, that is so beautifully summarised in that prayer of St. Teresa of Avila.
Let nothing trouble you
Let nothing frighten you
God never changes
Patience obtains all
Whoever has God
wants for nothing
God alone is enough.
There is one thing that every human heart is absolutely starving for: someone to trust. That is what we celebrate on this Solemnity of the Epiphany! God is ever Faithful. Be Not Afraid!