Epiphany Homily 2012

Today we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord, that is to say the manifestation of Our Lord to the nations. We have just a short time ago celebrated the Nativity, the Birth of the Eternal Son of God in time, and today we celebrate the fact that Our Lord and God came to earth to fully reveal God to all people of all nations. He is the True Light of the World: the Light of the entire human race. He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, but the world did not know Him. He came to His own and His own did not receive Him. But to those who did receive Him, He gave power to become children of God.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites are referred to as the chosen people or the people of God. These terms are used to refer to the Jewish people: people that shared a certain bloodline. In the Book of Genesis we hear about how God had entered into a Covenant with Abraham and made certain promises to him and to his descendants. The people of God in the Old Testament were descendents of Abraham; they were God’s people because they were in the bloodline of Abraham and therefore they inherited the promises of the Covenant that God had made with Abraham. God set Abraham’s descendants apart: he made them a holy people, a people set apart. God set them apart so that they would be a priestly and intercede with Him on behalf of all the nations and help the other nations come to know, love and serve the Lord. Yet the people of the Old Testament were not faithful to God. Again and again in the Old Testament we hear the Prophets calling the people to repent, to be faithful to God. In the fullness of time, God sent His own Son into the world: Christ came to fulfill the role that the people of God were intended to fulfill: He came to be Light for the nations: Light for all people of every time and place. Through Christ the world is offered light: for He is the Light of the world. Christ gives light to our minds: He reveals God to us so that we might know Him and He gives light to our hearts: He sheds Light on the great Love that God has for us. When we talk about someone “shedding light” on some subject, we are talking about someone helping us to know it. Christ helps us to know God and the love that He has for us. He reveals God to us because He is God incarnate: in the flesh.
This manifestation of Christ to the nations of the world is prefigured in the adoration of the Magi. The three wise men from the East were not members of the chosen people: they were pagans from a pagan nation. The wise men were not members of the people of God yet they were given a special knowledge, knowledge that most of the chosen people did not have: they were given the knowledge that the Lord of Heaven and earth had been born. Filled with joy at the birth of the Savior of the world they embarked on their long journey and traveled all the way to Bethlehem in order to offer their gifts and to adore the newborn infant Whom they recognized as the King of kings. In that little child, they recognized God-made-Man and they prostrated themselves before Him and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These three non-Jewish men were given a gift that most of the chosen people were not given and their adoration foreshadowed the fact that all nations would come to know Christ, not just those in the bloodline of Abraham, but those who (like Abraham) believe and faithfully follow God.

Christ came into the world so that everyone would have access to the Light: so that everyone would have access to God. The Eternal Son of God left the glory that He had in Heaven from all eternity and came into the world for you: to give you light. The Eternal Son was born in time so that you and I could come to know and love God. He is the Light of the world, yet this Light can be rejected, this Light can be ignored. God is Light: He wants to reveal Himself to us; He wants us to know Him and to love Him. That is the reason that He created you and me. Yet He does not force us to love Him: if He forced us to love Him it wouldn’t be real love. He offers us His love, He offers us His friendship, He offers us a share in His own divine life—but we have to accept His offer. He created us with a free will and He will never take our free will away from us.

Each and every day each one of us is faced with choices. From moment to moment throughout my life I either choose to follow God and allow His light into my heart, or I choose reject it. Like the chosen people of the Old Testament we, Christians, have been set apart by our Baptism; but we have been set apart so that that we can make God known to the world. Again and again we are all faced with the choice: will we allow God’s light to shine through us, or will we refuse? Being a Christian means following Jesus Christ: being a Christian is a choice that I make not once but again and again. God leaves us free to follow Him or reject Him. As Christians, we are in a relationship with Our Lord; we are called to imitate Him; we are called to love Him we are called to make Him known and loved in the world. Christ gave us the power to become sons and daughters of God—yet how often do we ignore that gift? He wants us to give us a share in His divine life—yet how often we prefer the things of this earthly life? May this Epiphany remind us of the great gift that we have been given and may it remind us that we are given the gift of faith in order to share it. Like the Magi let us eagerly seek Him. Like the Magi let us give Him gifts: the gift of our adoration, the gift of our lives, the gift of our whole heart, and the gift of our love. May we allow His light and His love to shine through us that He may continue to manifest Himself to the world.

[This was the homily I used at the 4:00PM Mass on Saturday. I used a simplified homily at the 5:00PM on Sunday, but that one was hand-written and therefore will not be posted on the blog. Sorry.]