07 Jan Epiphany
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting this homily 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.
Homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany
Epiphany means manifestation. Today the Church celebrates Jesus being manifested, being made known, to the whole world. In the magi, the kings, all peoples of every language and nation are represented. All people are called by God to adore Jesus. Salvation is for everyone and that is what we celebrate today. This is very important for us to note. In many places around the world Epiphany is celebrated with more solemnity than Christmas, because this is our coming of age. The story of Jesus’ infancy that we heard on Christmas was from Luke. It was a local, Jewish event: The Child, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds. We heard from Matthew’s gospel today. It is the mature story of Jesus’ infancy, the gospel grown up. In the introduction of the Magi it becomes crystal clear that salvation is from the Jews but not for the Jews only. Salvation is for everyone.
The Christmas Story is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Jewish Prophecies that were hundreds of years old. The Prophet Isaiah spoke that a virgin would be with child six hundred years before Christ. Imagine what our Lady must have thought when she realized that that prophecy was being fulfilled through her. Imagine how her heart would have been filled with awe and wonder and humility. The prophet Micha, quoted in today’s gospel, seven hundred years before Christ, prophesies that this will all take place in Bethlehem…small as it was among the clans of Judah.
Imagine as the magi approached where Mary, Joseph and the Child were living and bowed down with gold, frankincense and myrrh…Immediately she would have called to mind the Prophecy from Isaiah that we have just heard in the first reading…written some 600 years before Christ…“Caravans of camels shall fill you, Jerusalem, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.”
As the magi approached and bowed down in worship, proclaiming the praises of the Lord…Her heart would have recognized immediately the fulfillment of the prophecies…Her heart would have thrilled and rejoiced as the first reading prophesied in the realization of that the prophecies were being fulfilled. When she pondered these things in her heart she did not question them; she marvelled at them, marvelled at the mystery of God working in history as each part of the Christmas story was recognised as the fulfillment of the prophecies. Her heart pondered, bowed down before the majesty of God’s fulfillment in history…They came to show that Christ had come to save the entire world.
We see three kinds of Kingship in this Gospel: Herod, the Magi, and the Child.
The Magi from the East, these intelligent, wise, pagan, star watchers, represent the docile openness and readiness to obey the truth that is required of truth seekers. It is the same openness and readiness to obey the truth we first found in Mary and then in Joseph. The magi saw and they came. Like Mary and Joseph, insight led to action. They saw the King’s star. They came to adore. The wise person always seeks truth. And when the Truth is found, the wise person does not hesitate to adore it, to subject himself to it. What do they want to do at the end of their long exhaustive search…. They want to adore…. Literally the gospel says, to bend down to the ground before him. They recognize that the Truth claims us entirely for itself. We will be truly blessed when we can manage to surrender ourselves wholly to it, body and soul. For the wise person the goal of reflection, of searching, of prayer, of science, of philosophy is adoration ….. recognition of the Truth. They bow down before the Truth!!! As so do we when we genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament as we kneel down when we have received Him in Holy Communion!!! We bow down before the Truth.
Herod’s Kingship is very different. His kingship is very worldly. He is not searching. His goal is not the Truth. His gaze does not go upward, it is not open, His gaze is closed, secretive …. curved in on himself. His concerns are those of ambition, power, of arrogance, of self-justification …. which produces anxiety, a fear of the other.…. A fear that requires what he is afraid of to be destroyed. Herod feels threatened. His rule is unjust…He rules for his sake and not for the sake of the people. Sadly, Herod knows and in theory accepts who Christ is…He refers to the baby as “The Christ”, the anointed one of God. But he has his own authority, his petty power to protect. He knows Christ but he does not accept Christ for Himself. His knowledge impels him to selfishness and hatred and not to adoration. Also, sadly, Herod accepts unquestioningly the authenticity of the star; but he is so consumed with protecting ambition that he can’t stop everything in his life long enough to marvel. Herod sees the Child as a rival and he prepares to ambush the Child with all the earthly power and duplicity at his disposal. He pretends he wants to adore the newborn King. Blasphemously he feigns devotion and the search for truth…. falsely he poses as a pious Jew when he intends to destroy what he says he wants to adore. Before this gospel picture of Herod we have to ask ourselves. Does our knowledge of God always incite us to the acts of adoration and acts of charity that by nature it ought to provoke?
The kingship of the magi is so different…it is one of seeking, searching, finding and the giving of gifts.
When the Magi saw the star stop over the place where the child was…They were overwhelmed with Joy. Christ is always a reason for rejoicing for the wise and a cause of consternation to the obstinate. The Wise men were not surprised they had been led to a little village . They were not surprised by the simple little dwelling over which the star stood. They rejoiced. They rejoiced with uncontainable joy. Wise men…. from so far away… come to see a king…are led to a little house in a village. The key…every thing which leads us to Jesus fills us with joy. Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God. Another question this gospel forces us to ask of ourselves: Am I filled with Joy? With a peace that is so profound that I am completely confident in God’s will and His Way even if it is not clear. Such joy comes from profound Faith.
In their joy the magi bow down and adore Christ. The documents of the Council of Trent teach that Jesus present in the tabernacle is the same Jesus the wise men found in Mary’s arms. In light of this gospel we should examine ourselves to see how we adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament…. What is the attitude of our heart when the bread becomes His Body when the wine becomes His Blood at the consecration of the Mass…do we adore? Is the prayer “My Lord and My God.” on my lips…then at the consecration or when I pass by a tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament reserved there.
Their kingship is humble…Great wise persons…Bow down before God. Searching, seeking for truth…they come bearing gifts. In the presence of the Truth the first response is adoration the second is to give of oneself; completely, unselfishly, whatever the situation demands.
This is most evident in the Kingship of the Child. The humility of our God in not only becoming one of us, but taking on human nature in a helpless baby…The Kingship of Christ is one of humble, self sacrificial service as we will see throughout His Life and ultimately in his Suffering, Death and Resurrection…In Christ’s life we see over and over again the giving and restoring of life. That is the Heart of God…what makes God be God. He gives Life. If Life is lost. He restores Life. Christ’s Kingship is one of complete self-sacrificial love. He has come that we may have life and have it to the full.
Three kinds of Kingship. Herod: Worldly. The magi…Truth seeking humility and…the Lord Himself: life-giving, self-sacrificial love.
So on this Solemnity of the Epiphany, of the Manifestation of Our Lord to the World I encourage you to join the magi in adoration. I’d encourage you to go before your Nativity Scene with the magi now there or go before Him present in the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle; adore there and pray this or some similar Epiphany prayer.
Lord, we are drawn to your feet in worship
Your creation facing its Creator
Hearts laid bare by your light
Humbly asking for your mercy.
We come to you as a people in need
of assurance and forgiveness.
We come to you as a people in need
of healing and wholeness.
We come dependent upon your love.
Draw us close.
Enfold us in your arms.
Fill us with your Spirit
that we might reflect your light within this dark world,
that we might speak your Word with boldness
and that we might draw others to your feet.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Your Son.