January 3, 2016
The Epiphany of the Lord
Jan 3, 2016
Reading 1 Is 60:1-6
Responsorial Psalm Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Reading 2 Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6
Alleluia Mt 2:2
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 2:1-12
Homily— January 2 & 3, 2016
A TV commercial a while back sang the praises of the human eye. The commercial portrayed how our amazing eyes can see the light of a single candle in the darkness from one hundred football fields away! That’s over five miles! In the gospel, the “magi from the east” followed the light of a star; a light of heaven that guided them. It was a light of revelation that manifested “the newborn king of the Jews” to Gentile wise men. It was a light of warning that protected this Child from harm until his time had come. Like the magi, we must follow this light to the Light. Like the magi, we must offer “the child” homage—the gift of our very selves so that we can become the Light of his Presence.
The visit of the magi to the newborn King of the Jews immediately reminds us that Christ’s birth was the beginning of significant change for the whole world. King Herod is upset and fearful to hear of the birth of “the newborn King of the Jews.” Epiphany reminds us that the advent of this child will disrupt earthly powers and invite all peoples of the earth to find salvation. The broader meaning of the feast is the manifestation of Christ to the whole world. St. Paul affirms this in his letter to the Ephesians stating “that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
The magi came bearing gifts. They saw and believed. Gold and frankincense were gifts usually reserved for God. Myrrh was regarded as a reminder of Jesus passion since it was used to anoint the dead. Even in the joy of the Christmas season there is a touch of darkness because not everything goes as planned. We can note the funerals that occur near Christmas and find ourselves saddened for ourselves even as we recognize the opportunity of loved ones to share in the greatest of gifts, eternal life with God and all the saints.
Pope Benedict XVI said that “The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star.”
As we celebrate the appearance of God, in Jesus, to all the peoples of the earth, how might we express our gratitude for such a gift? What gifts have we to offer God, the giver of all good gifts?
Given God’s plan, perhaps the best gift we might offer is our daily affirmation of that plan as well as our continued commitment to realizing that plan in our lives, in our world. Today, we no longer use the term “gentile” to refer to others, but if we are honest with ourselves, we do tend to make distinctions about certain people and groups among us. Those distinctions sometimes lead to disrespect, misunderstanding, prejudice and even violence.
What if Isaiah instead of writing about Midian and Ephah and Sheba had written, “All from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Mexico and Guatemala will come. . . Muslims and Jews, immigrants and refugees, the poverty-stricken and the unemployed, the sick, the hungry and the homeless. . . all will come. . .” Will we offer them the same welcome that each could receive from God? Will we reach out in love? Will we have mercy? Is this also a gift that each of us might offer to God and to one another?
From earliest times, people around the world have migrated from one place to another for countless reasons: to find food, to escape threats and violence, to seek employment, to flee repressive governments, and on and on. The case is the same today. In fact, at this point in history, migrants and refugees number in the hundreds of thousands, their situation due to armed conflicts, hunger, and political and economic instability.
Beginning today, we dedicate a week to migrants and refugees, under the theme: “A Stranger and You Welcomed Me.” Let us reflect on how we, our forebears, and people we know have been or are migrants or refugees. I wonder what our ancestors would have done if they would have had quotas on how many people could come into the United States back then. I wonder how Mary and Joseph who migrated to Egypt because of the threat to Jesus would rate our concern and care for immigrants. May we find ways to ease the pain and burden of migrants and refugees—those in our midst or at a distance.