Jan 7, 2017

The Epiphany of the Lord




The event described in the Gospel underscores the far reaching effects of God's grace rippling out out in every direction from that one central event that began in Bethlehem with the birth of Jesus Christ.


The following ten points (or some of them) are worth some reflection. Each one of them could be expanded into various homilies. However, the final point might serve as the one simple premise I believe everything must first be built upon. To that end, I hope there's something for everyone!


1.  With the direct intervention of God in human history, nature herself can not remain silent. The star announced the birth of Christ. An eclipse of the sun and an earthquake proclaimed his death. A garden welcomes his resurrection. God speaks to us through nature and its elements. This could be a homily on our respect for God's creation.


2. As nature likewise groans for salvation, so does all humanity. As a people who live in darkness longs for daylight, the Epiphany of the Lord fills us with hope and optimism that a new day dawns for humanity. This could be a homily on the aspirations for justice and freedom and the Herods of our day who oppose it.


3. We are very familiar of the picture postcard of the three wise men and the iconic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  This could be a homily on the nature of Christ as King, as God, as the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sins of the of the world.


4.  The mysterious magi, who they actually were, what lands did they really come from? Their arrival on the scene of the birth of Jesus reveals the countless multitudes of peoples, nations and cultures searching for God. This could be a homily on multiculturalism and universal salvation.


5.  The events of the Epiphany demonstrate that the chief priests and scribes knew the Hebrew Scriptures inside out, even concerning the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. But they are unmoved, and the birth of Christ seemed uninteresting to them. Unlike the Magi, they missed the clues and obvious hints God had prepared them for. This could be a homily discerning the signs of the times.


6.  We are likewise presented with the theatrics of Herod who pretends to want to find Christ so he can pay tribute to the new-born messiah. This could be a homily on the dangers of false devotion and trying to appear to be holy but instead wanting to keep everything the status quo.


7.  What the Magi found at the end of their journey following the star was no doubt a surprise they did not anticipate nor could they have predicted. This could be a homily on the need to journey outside our comfort zones and to be open to the God of surprises.


8.  When the Wise Men encountered the Christ-child and were later warned that Herod was out to destroy the newborn, they could have offered to take the holy family back with them to their own kingdoms, giving them protection and offering the child a place in their best schools of the orient. This could be a homily on how God's ways are not necessarily our ways, despite our best intentions and objectives.


9.  The Gospel story of the Epiphany is full of biblical codes and prophecies, astronomical readings and calculations.  As interesting as it all is, the goal of our Christian Faith is not to provide quick answers and remedies, or scientific proofs or explanations. This could be a homily on the relationship between faith and reason.


10.  Finally, when the Magi arrived in God's little house, what did they see and experience there and then? They saw a helpless but adorable newborn baby lifted up out of the rags by an exhausted virgin mother and a young nervous husband. The Wise Men could only but gaze in wonderment, even joyful astonishment. They instinctively bowed to the ground in profound and humble adoration - no questions asked.  


Every Sunday we are allowed to come face to face with the Son of God lifted up for adoration from the bedrock of an altar through the veil of the Eucharist. His divine personality is hidden from us behind the simple and unassuming "garments" of bread and wine, and after Mass, secured in our midst within the protective embrace of a loving tabernacle, a golden manger. Likewise, we too bow to the ground, in profound and humble adoration - no questions asked - only prayers and whispers of thanksgiving and petition.
 
Before we extrapolate and theorize the theological, social and global consequences of the manifestation of Christ to the world, maybe it is worth reflecting that the kings of the orient and shepherds of Bethlehem, that is what - the intellectual and the uneducated, the rich and the poor, the employer and the employee, the native and the foreigner, have in common - amazement that God's plan of salvation very simple - it's right before our eyes. Let's not complicate it too much.

Instead, in quiet amazement of how easily it is for the humble and the unassuming, and how difficult it is for the proud and arrogant, let's start off together - on bended knee before God's presence in response to the invitation, "Oh Come let us adore Him!"

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