Homily for Solemnity of the Epiphany (Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12)
Dearly beloved, we celebrate today the epiphany or manifestation of our God, God revealing himself, particularly to our gentile ancestors. At the heart of this celebration, during the beginning of a year like this, is a reminder to you of a God who does not desire to hide himself from his creatures but wishes to reveal himself to them. In the event that you feel God is so distant from you, look rather at what you are not doing right and reposition because he is, and will always be, closer than you can imagine.
Right at the beginning of our gospel passage we come across this statement:
“When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him”.
History has it that this same Herod had killed three of his sons who he thought were trying to usurp his throne. He also killed his brother-in-law, and sent his wife and another son into exile. He would do everything to protect his position. What at all about this message could have caused so much trouble to such a great king? Why, the upheaval in his heart!, the hatred that resulted in the slaughtering of the innocent children.
What was the news? The “rising of a star”, the “birth of another king”, the “revelation of the truth”. How much of Herod’s attitude do we see in ourselves? When we can’t stand the rise, success, good fortunes of others around us, how do you feel when it’s not all about you? Do you get troubled about the success and rise of others?
St. Matthew also mentioned that the magi observed the ‘star rising’, (v. 2), this supports that they had knowledge of astrology. Also, coming from the east, confirms Mesopotamia, the home of astrology in the Hellenistic world. The magi learned of the birth of Jesus by observing a star. The star did not say anything to them. They had to interpret this natural sign of the star to know what it meant and where it led. These were people who searched for the truth in their field of work or profession, a further indication that God reveals himself to us. In the course of the year as always, God’s revelations are not limited to the confines of the church or the periods we pray or read our bibles. Whatever your profession, whatever your job, if only your heart is open to the truth, God will always be there.
Notice how Matthew implicitly suggests that when the guiding star got to Jerusalem, its light failed and the magi, with the seemingly friendly support of Herod, had to consult the scriptures to learn further direction leading them to Bethlehem. We see clearly that over and above the natural light of the star (reason, work, profession, occupation, etc.), the magi still needed the supernatural light of scripture to finally get to Jesus. Do you have any plans or resolutions toward Holy Scripture this year?
Another lesson we can equally learn is that although the Jewish authorities possessed the shining truth of revealed scriptures, they did not follow it. They did not walk in the light of the scriptures. The magi on the other hand, who enjoyed only a “star light”, followed its guidance. As Catholics, we do not have just the sacred scripture; we have the sacraments and the teaching magisterium to bring us the truth. But what does that benefit us if we do not have time to put into action what we read or we do not open our lives to the liturgy and the celebrations of the sacraments.
Scripture has it that when these wise men finally met the child, they brought out treasures from their bags and did him homage. On Friday as the new bishop is installed, all the priests in the diocese will go before him with hands joined together and placed into his palms and bow to do him homage. This is a symbol of obedience and submission. At the beginning of this year, I encourage you, as part of your resolution, to pay homage to the Lord, acknowledging him every step of the way. Recently, I asked one of our parish families what their plans were in view of a job opportunity that had opened up, would they stay here or move? “We are not sure, yet” they said, “We are praying over it.” They are giving homage to the Lord, letting him direct their lives. We do this even in the minor events of our lives. We say grace before meals.
Dearly Beloved, God so wishes to journey with us in this year as before and always. He wants you to know and share more with him moving forward. He seeks to reveal himself more and more if your heart is open to him. May this year bring you to a deeper knowledge, faith and hope in the Lord.