Archive for the ‘Epiphany’ Category

Epiphany Homily 2012

January 9, 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.]


January 8, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany.  The word “epiphany” literally means “a manifestation.”  Throughout salvation history, God has manifested Himself in many and various ways.  The entire Old Testament is a record of God’s repeated attempt to reach out to His chosen people.

In the beginning, God created man and woman in His own image and likeness.  We were created for friendship with God; we were created for union with God.  Through the exercise of their free will, Adam and Eve chose to turn their backs on God and disobey Him; as a result they lost God’s friendship, not just for themselves but for all of their progeny.  Even though our First Parents disobeyed God and sinned, God did not abandon us to our fallen state.  Immediately after the Fall God promised to send us a Redeemer.  Again and again throughout the Old Testament we hear of how God renewed His Covenant with His people.  God established a Covenant with Noah and his family after the Flood.  God entered into a Covenant with Abraham and his descendants Isaac and Jacob.  From the tribe of Abraham, the Chosen People grew into twelve tribes: the twelve tribes of Israel.  Then, under King David, the Chosen People became a mighty nation and the Covenant grew as the Chosen People flourished and multiplied.

Even though the Chosen People grew quite populous under the reign of King David and under his son Solomon, God’s Covenant never went beyond the Chosen People: the Gentiles, or non-Jewish people were not a part of God’s Covenant.  Today we celebrate Epiphany: today we remember how the magi from the east came to worship the newborn King.  These magi were not members of the Chosen People.  These magi were the first to come and worship God in the flesh.  The adoration of the magi is seen as the prefigurement of the fact that the new and eternal Covenant, which Jesus Christ would establish in His own Blood, would extend beyond the Chosen People: the Covenant that Jesus Christ instituted is extended unto all people, Jew and Gentile alike.

Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of God to us.  Jesus Christ is God made man, in Him we see the image of the invisible God.  Through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father.  Today we celebrate with joy this access to God that we have through Christ.  Today we rejoice in the fact that Our God was made manifest in the flesh in Jesus Christ and that He has extended His Covenant to all mankind if only we will come and adore Him as did the magi of old.

When the magi found the Child, they prostrated themselves before Him and offered Him three gifts, the Gospel tells us: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Those three gifts were themselves prophetic: Gold was a gift given to a king, and of course Jesus is the King of kings; incense is what was offered to God in the Temple, and Jesus Christ is God become man and He is the High Priest Who will offer the Perfect Sacrifice; finally, in those days myrrh was used to anoint dead bodies, which prophetically showed that Jesus was truly man and thus capable of dying on the Cross for our sins.

The gifts of the magi can also be seen to have reference to us and to the gifts that we are to bring to Our Newborn King.  We do not bring gold, frankincense and myrrh as the magi of old, but we can see in those gifts a type or a prefigurement of what we can and ought to bring.  In the gold we can see the foreshadowing of our hearts: our hearts are to be pure.  Gold is most precious when it is unmixed with other things, when it is pure.  So, too, our hearts are to be unmixed: we are called to love God above all things; we are called to cast sin out of our hearts in order that God may reign in our hearts completely.  If we want to offer a gift to Our Lord, the gift that will please Him most is the gift of a pure, undivided heart.

The gift of frankincense, like the incense that we use at solemn Masses, is representative of our prayers ascending to Heaven.  Offering our prayers to God is certainly a pleasing offering to Him and our prayers help us to draw nearer to Him and obtain that purity of heart that we are to offer.  When we pray, we deepen our relationship with God.  Our relationship with God is like our other relationships, in many ways.  We have to spend time talking to God and listening to Him in order to grow in our spiritual lives.  We cannot have a relationship with someone we never speak with.  The gift of our time, spent in prayer, is always a pleasing gift that we can offer to Our Lord.

Furthermore, Saint Paul tells us that we are to pray without ceasing.  When we pray, we are to offer not only our vocal prayers, but we can make an offering of everything to God: we can offer everything to God.  We can offer to God our whole day; we can offer our work and our leisure.  We can offer to God our joys and our sorrows.  We can make of our daily hardships and trials an offering to God.  The myrrh offered by the magi can be for us a reminder that Jesus Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.

Let us make a gift of ourselves to the Lord.  Let us offer to Him everything that we are and everything that we have.  Let us offer ourselves as a pleasing sacrifice to Him knowing that He will never be outdone in generosity.  When we give ourselves wholly to Him, He will unite Himself completely to us and union with our God is the purpose for which we were created.  Only when our hearts are in union with God will we find our hearts deepest longing: our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.


Epiphany 2010

January 3, 2010

Today we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, the Feast by which we commemorate the fact that the Salvation of our God is for all the nations.  Throughout the Old Testament, we hear of how God spoke to His Chosen People, the Jews, through the Prophets.  In the fullness of time, God sent His own Son, born of the Virgin Mary, in order to fully reveal Himself, not just to His Chosen People, but to the whole world.  The three Magi were the first non-Jews to adore the Word-made-flesh, Emmanuel: God-with-us.

The Magi found the child with Mary His mother and they prostrated themselves before Him and adored Him.  They saw a baby with His mother and they fell down and worshipped.  God alone is worthy of our worship.  We do well to venerate the Blessed Mother and the Saints, but worship is something that is due to God alone.  The First of the Ten Commandments demands that we put no other god before the One, True God.  As the Magi beheld the child, they perceived one thing with their bodily eyes, and another thing with the eyes of their minds.  With their bodily eyes, they saw a newborn infant, but they knew that it was God that they adored.  It would have been pointless for the Magi to offer their adoration to a mere infant; an infant would have been unable to comprehend their worship; yet the Magi knew that there was more to this child than what they could see with their eyes.  They worshipped the baby before them knowing that He was God; God Who knows all things and comprehends all things and alone is deserving of all our love.

We are to adore God in the way that He is pleased to reveal Himself to us.  The Magi knew Him to be God, even though their senses told them that what they beheld was only a little child.  We, too, are to adore Our God as He is pleased to appear to us: we do not see a baby in a manger with His Mother, we see what looks like a piece of unleavened bread placed upon our altar by the priest.  Just as the Magi knew that what looked like an ordinary child was actually Almighty God, worthy of all adoration, so too, we know that what appears to be ordinary bread and wine on our altar is, after the consecration, Jesus Christ truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  We, like the Magi of old, are here to adore Him Who IS God among us.

After falling prostrate before Him, the Magi offered their gifts to Him.  We know that their gifts were full of significance: Gold signified the tribute they paid to Him as to their king; they offered incense to Him for they knew Him to be God; they offered myrrh, (which was used to embalm dead bodies in those days).  Myrrh was given to indicate the fact that God truly became a mortal man.  The gifts each had a symbolic or prophetic significance, but it is also important to note the fact that the Magi brought gifts with them when they came to worship.

God created everything that exists; God continually holds all creation together.  If God ceased to sustain something, it would cease to exist.  He created us and all that we have that is good comes from Him.  There isn’t anything that we can offer to Him that He hasn’t given to us; whatever we offer, we are only returning to Him what He has given to us in the first place.  Furthermore, God doesn’t need anything.  He is God; He created everything.  And yet, we learn from the three kings that it is important to offer a gift to God as we worship Him.

What, then, are we to offer to God?  We look to Jesus for the answer.  He is our example: He is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  What does Jesus give to us?  Jesus gave us the gift of Himself.  Jesus became a man for us; He was born for us in order that He may die to save us from sin and death.  He continues to give Himself to us in the gift of the Holy Eucharist at each and every Mass.  We are to imitate Christ: we should give to God the gift of ourselves.

How are we to make a gift of ourselves to God?  As the Magi brought the gift of gold, acknowledging that Christ was their King, so we too should acknowledge Christ as our King and put our fidelity to Him above all else.  As the Magi brought incense, so we can offer incense.  We offer incense here in Church, but each one of us can also offer the gift of incense.  In one of the Psalms, King David says that our prayers ascend as pleasing incense in the sight of Almighty God; and so we offer incense on the altar of our hearts whenever we pray to God from the heart.  Spending time in prayer is a gift that we can make to God in order to thank Him for all that He has done for us.

Finally, there is the gift of myrrh.  As I already mentioned, myrrh was used to embalm bodies in the ancient world: it was a gift that signified death.  Myrrh can be a reminder to us that if we are to offer ourselves to God, we need to die to self.  Jesus tells us that if we are to follow after Him, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow after Him.  By denying our sinful tendencies and rooting sin out of our lives, we make a more pleasing gift of ourselves to God.  Let us imitate the Magi and adore our God.  As we adore, let us bring our gift to Him: the gift of ourselves.  Let us strive to conform our lives and our hearts to that of Christ, and thereby make of ourselves an ever more pleasing gift to God.