Epiphany Homily (January 3, 2016)

Epiphany Homily (January 3, 2016)


After all of the celebrations of Christmas, with all of the many preparations that took place during the Advent season, and all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, things will be getting back to normal.  The parties are pretty much over, folks are getting back from vacations, and students are heading back to school.  But today’s celebration of the Epiphany of our Lord should remind us that after the coming of Jesus Christ into the world—God having made His dwelling among us—things should hardly be back to normal


Our Gospel narrative is a familiar story: three magi, or “wise men,” or “kings” (as we sing), journey from the east (or from “afar”), bringing the baby Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  While many of us maybe aren’t even quite sure what myrrh is exactly, we see in this Gospel story the giving of gifts that has become an important part of our Christmas tradition.  And so with this old familiar story of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and with the holiday season seemingly in the rearview mirror, it is easy for us to forget the power that the Epiphany of our Lord holds for us.  For the Epiphany is less about gifts and magi, and more about the manifestation (the appearance) of God to all peoples—and how a true encounter with this manifestation of God sets us on a radically different course


The three astrologers from the east seek out the newborn messiah not because they’ve been saving their treasures for Him, but ultimately because they’ve been saving their lives for Him.  The most significant thing they do is to prostrate themselves: lying face down in praise and reverence and submission to the One who is to be the shepherd of their hearts.  And having been enlightened by this encounter with the living God, “they departed for their country by another way.”  They turn away from the cynical and selfish likes of King Herod and return to their own people, knowing that God’s promise has been fulfilled for all: that the light of the messiah has risen, has come in the midst of darkness; that they have Emmanuel, “God with us.”


And so, brothers and sisters, it is for us.  There are certainly times of darkness that can so often threaten to close in on us: job stresses, financial woes, family crises, illnesses, loneliness, loss, despair, or even feeling trapped in the web of our own sinfulness.  But the Christmas season ultimately reminds us that God brings light into the darkness; that in the person of Jesus Christ, God has not forgotten us, but rather has come into our world, into our experience, into our lives.  The magi sought after a light, wanting to reach for what it proclaimed: that their savior and redeemer had come.  And they wanted to give Him homage, to claim Him as their Lord. 


Yet that is not the end of the story.  Having encountered their Lord, they go back to their homes; they go back to their everyday world, back to their everyday lives.  But surely things did not go back to normal!  We even hear that they went home by a different route.  Sure, this means that they wanted to protect the Christ child from the evil of Herod, but in doing this they claim Christ as their Lord.  They reject the trappings of earthy power for the promise that was fulfilled in a baby.  Not only was their route different, but more importantly their hearts were different. 


Brothers and sisters, this is the power of the Epiphany of the Lord!  Our searching for light, our searching for God is not in vain!  It may be a long journey; we may meet people along the way who frustrate our quest.  But if we persevere we can indeed encounter our Lord, allow our hearts to be transformed, and offer Him our lives with gladness and thanksgiving.  We turn in a new direction towards God.  That is what is meant by conversion: turning anew towards God.  Conversion is not simply a single event, but something that we dedicate ourselves to day after day, year after year; following the path of God, in large steps or in small steps, and turning back again when we start to face in another direction. 


And the encounter with God, and the daily turning towards God, is not just for our benefit.  Like the magi, our encounter with Christ leads us to return to our daily living to spread the Good News, to share our encounter of Christ with all we meet—through our words, through our actions, through our thoughts, through our prayers.  And, of course, our greatest encounter with Christ in is the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ present here for us to receive and to then go forth to announce the Gospel of the Lord, glorifying the Lord by our lives–a radically different course indeed.