Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 7, 2018
Reading 1 JON 3:1-5, 10
Responsorial PsalmPS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading 11 1 COR 7:29-31
Alleluia MK 1:15
- Alleluia, alleluia.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MK 1:14-20
Homily—January 6 & 7, 2018 Feast of the Epiphany
On this 12th day of Christmas, we can be challenged by the realization that one theme runs through the nativity stories: Jesus came to the lowly as one of their own. Even the magi look for Jesus in Jerusalem first as they create a stir with the question “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” These 22 words call to mind ancient prophecies even as they offer hope and challenge to contemporary Christians.
Prophecies, always easier to interpret in hindsight, predicted that the chosen people would become a light to the nations, that a descendant of David would establish an everlasting kingdom, that caravans of camels would come bearing gold and frankincense, that a star would come from Jacob. People of faith see these prophecies fulfilled in the birth and life of Jesus. These prophecies continue to offer the sort of hope we find in Psalm 72: the hope that justice and peace will reign, that the poor will find rescue and that all nations on earth will come to know God. The magi tell us that if we don’t believe that the promises can be fulfilled, we will never notice that it has begun to happen.
The story of the magi offers a particular witness to First World people today. The Savior came as a lowly one among the lowly and the magi were wealthy foreigners who paid attention to the signs of their times. Their reading of the heavens focused on a star that signified something important was happening beyond their borders, and they were willing to displace themselves to discover what it might be. They had enough faith to go seeking more. At the same time, they were humble enough to ask for wisdom from a tradition that was not their own.
The magi combined their traditions and Jewish wisdom which led to a deeper understanding about God’s activity on Earth. Reading their own tradition led them to seek a great king, their open-mindedness allowed them to discover more. When the star led them beyond the great city to a little town, away from wealth to the bosom of a simple family, they believed in their light more than in any preconceived notions about where to find God and greatness. As surprising it must have been to them and Mary, they did homage to a child and gave their treasure to him. The magi’s gifts, which represent among other things, earthly wealth, religious insight and mortality, are the reparations humanity offers to God through the magi. The joy they found at the end of their journey is one of the first effects of the divine illumination now available to everyone.
The magi remind us that the God of the poor and lowly always invites those with abundance to seek more than we have yet found. They invite us to see new things. Whether by following stars or listening to the angels, the magi remind us to seek God beyond our own preconceptions and expectations, and to always look for God among the poor and lowly.
We disciples are Christ’s tangible presence in the world. That same child whose light brought such joy to the magi now, through us, offers his mercy to every person. Through us every day, Christ feeds multitudes; he heals, teaches and guides countless people. Through individual volunteers and major institutions, through simple acts of kindness or worldwide coordinated efforts, the world can encounter, through the Christian community, the enduring, tangible presence of Christ.
Matthew’s infancy narrative will end with the holy family’s flight into Egypt and eventual return to Galilee. I like to think that the gifts of the magi helped them make this difficult journey and helped to get them established in Egypt. This is national migration week so please pray this prayer with me in your hearts or if you already have a bulletin you can pray along with me.
Good and gracious God, we pray for all people who are migrating particularly those who are forced from their homes or separated from their families because of threats of violence and persecution. We ask that you protect and keep them safe.
Although we come from different countries, and have our origins in different cultures, we were all created by you, and are made in your image, and therefore we all share an inalienable dignity that is deserving of respect.
Lord, we ask that you give us the strength to defend those who are marginalized, to give aid to those in need, to come to the defense of those who are poor or vulnerable, and to welcome those who are on the move into our homes and into our hearts.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.