1.7.18 Epiphany of the Lord – B
1st Reading Isaiah 60: 1 – 6
The Letter of St. Paul to Ephesians 3: 2 – 3,a, 5 – 6
Gospel – Matthew 2: 1 – 12
When †Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy The Epiphany Continues In Us
At a Parish Christmas pageant, the children were given various parts to play. There was a Mary, Joseph, shepherds and Magi. The big night came and parents and families were gathered in the church for the play. It came time for the arrival of the Magi. The leader of the three Magi turned to the congregation proclaiming as loud as he could: “We are the Magi, and behold we come bearing gifts of gold, common sense and fur”!
In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah boldly proclaims: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come; the glory of the Lord shines upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). “Jerusalem” refers to the Jewish people as a whole, as a corporate entity. They had been given a great gift. Of all the cultures in the world at the time the Savior of the world was born into their culture. They were promised, as a people, that “Nations shall walk by your light and kings by your shining radiance” (Isaiah 60:3). He would be a blessing and a gift; the Creator of heaven and earth would walk among them. Centuries later, when †Jesus was born, Magi arrived in Jerusalem. They informed King Herod of the birth of the “newborn King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). Matthew tells us: “When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3). It was not just Herod who was “troubled”, but “all of Jerusalem with him”. “Jerusalem”, again referring to the Jewish people as a whole. Remember, Matthew wrote his Gospel 40 or 50 years after the death and resurrection of †Jesus. †Jesus had been rejected by His own people and crucified. Eventually, His followers were persecuted and ostracize; culture and faith have collided. The Jewish people had been given a great gift and they chose to reject it. This is reflected in the verse: “King Herod…was greatly troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him”.
World cultures and Christianity continue to collide. It is convenient to blame the “irrelevance” of Christianity in the world on politicians; on governments suppressing Christians. While this can be the case, in some places, in most places culture has become secularized and Christians have become secularized along with it. People choose to live for themselves rather than in imitation of Christ. The culture diminishes the expression of faith and believers allow this to happen. We often forget the gift we have been given. †Jesus came, not just for one group of people. He came to save all of humanity from sin and death. St. Caesarea of Arles, a sixth century bishop, wrote: “He who embraces heaven and earth, is held within the embrace of His Mother. He who left the Kingdom of His Father, lies hidden in the bosom of His Mother” (St. Caesarius or Arles; from: St Caesarius of Arles Sermons, vol. III [187-238]; Fathers of the Church, vol. 66; St. Mary Magdalene Mueller, trans.; The Catholic University of America Press; Washington). The arrival of the Magi is more than part of the Christmas story. It is the timeless “Epiphany”; the proclamation that God has come among all his people; †Jesus is the One Savior of the world, yesterday, today and forever.
There is something that has not changed in over 20 centuries. People are still “troubled” by the Word of God. King Herod was terrified that his power and privilege would be taken from him. Many today, are worried that their comfortable lives will be changed if they give themselves completely to †Jesus. †Jesus came to give, not take away; to fulfill, not to deprive. The images in the Nativity scene reveal to us the goodness of God. †Jesus was born in a stable, not a palace; born into poverty, not to take away our possessions but to show us how to live with a spirit of detachment from our possessions; not to be ruled by possessions. †Jesus was placed in a manger, a feeding trough. He has come to feed us with His Body and Blood, food for the eternal journey. The Holy Family welcomed the presence of the Magi, foreigners from different cultures. They brought †Jesus gifts; but †Jesus is a gift from the Father to us and the entire world, yesterday, today and forever. The Epiphany teaches that all people, from greatest to least, are welcomed into His Kingdom. When the Magi left to return to their homes, Herod the king sent soldiers to hunt down and kill “The newborn King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). The Holy Family quickly left the security of Bethlehem, becoming refugees; immigrants in a foreign land.
It is time we stop blaming the government or politicians for what is called the “post-Christian era” we live in. Faith is nurtured, not by laws but by faith, in the hearts of the faithful. The secular culture may be “troubled” by religious expression but we should not be. †Jesus came into the world, not to save political structures but to save all of God’s children; to change hearts. As disciples, we are called to love one another as we have been loved by God. Even the smallest gesture of love possesses the glory of God. The smallest act of kindness possesses the glory of God. The splendor and goodness of God is present everywhere even in the most humble and lowly people. The Lord is closer to you than you are to yourself so there is no need to fear or be anxious. Each of us has gifts that we can offer for the glory and honor of God. Gifts that can be offered to the †Jesus we see present in one another. The Magi revealed the presence of God to the world; this is the Epiphany. This Epiphany must continue in us.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.