Sunday, January 7, 2018

Homily for Today

The glory of God has shined upon us. For "the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same Body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." [Eph. 3:6] Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass that commemorates Epiphany Sunday.

According to the New Catholic Dictionary of 1929, the word "Epiphany" had its origin from the Greek word "epiphaino." "Epi" signifies "upon," "phaino" signifying "show." Combined, these words means "to show upon." This Feast, usually celebrated on January 6 th, commemorates the manifestation of the glory of Christ that was shown upon the Gentiles in the person of the Magi, as well as His Baptism and the first miracle at Cana. Originating in the Eastern Church in the 3 rd century, it soon spread to the West, where it is now commemorated especially for the apparition to the Magi. In England and many European countries it is popularly known as Twelfth Night (after Christmas) and is the occasion for the revival of numerous quaint customs.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 60:1-6] was the beginning of three Chapters of prophecies that provided a lyrical description of the new Jerusalem. In the new Jerusalem, the glory of God would be seen, not only upon the Jewish nation, but also upon the Gentiles. This truth is made very obvious in the last verse where it states, "They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord." [Is. 60:1-6] As the Gospel of Matthew affirms, "wise men (magi) from the East came to Jerusalem" [Mt. 2:1] and offered baby Jesus "gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." [Mt. 2:11]

Have you ever wondered why the three magi offered gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus. Surely, they could have offered something more valuable such as diamonds, platinum and gold. Now that has value! Obviously, it was not the goal of the three magi to offer baby Jesus valuable items. Their goal was to offer symbolic items. Gold was a gift that was fit for a King. The magi did not perceive Jesus as their equal but rather as their King. Frankincense was a gift fit for a priest. The magi perceived Jesus to be a priest, one who is an advocate between God and man. Myrrh was used to embalm the dead. While the magi perceived that Jesus was their King and a priest, they also perceived that He would die for the salvation of mankind.

As the Holy Scriptures reveal to us, indeed nations have come to the Light of Jerusalem. In the early life of the Lord Jesus, at the brightness of the dawn, kings came to adore Him. The visit of the wise men, as the visit of the shepherds, was followed by millions of spiritual sons and daughters of God who have sought out the pure Truth that is found in the Lord Jesus.

The new Jerusalem, the invisible Body of Christ, had its beginning in the City of Jerusalem. Lk. 24:33, 47; Acts 1:4] It is made visible through the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that was personally instituted by Christ Himself. Both, the new Jerusalem and the Holy Catholic Church constitute the mystical Body of Christ that unites the angels and the saints of Heaven and earth.

As The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians [Eph. 3:2-3, 5-6] made known to us today, prior to the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the salvation of the Gentiles had remained a mystery. While this truth was prophesied in the Old Testament, it appears that God's people had been blind to it until such time as the fullness of time had arrived. Now, by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, the mystery had been revealed to the holy apostles and prophets. Saint Paul was commissioned to make known to the world the grace of God that had descended upon the entire world. By the grace of God, we who are included among the Gentiles, "have become fellow heirs, members of the same Body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel." [Eph. 3:6]

Today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 2:1-12] teaches us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of king Herod. History reveals to us that Herod the Great, a satellite king of Judea, reigned from 37 to 4 B.C. Based on this knowledge, contrary to what many believe, because of the timing related to the death of king Herod, Jesus had to be born at least 4 years earlier than established by the present calendar.

Frequently, the wise men are referred to as "magi." This singular tense of the word, tangus is a term that was used in those days to mean any one skilled in occult knowledge and power. Because Matthew mentioned that the magi observed the star rising, [Mt. 2:2] this supports that they had knowledge of astrology. Another factor to consider is that they came from the East. This implies that they came from Mesopotamia, the home of astrology in the Hellenistic world.

The record of the magi, like the genealogy of Jesus, [Mt. 1:1-17] confirms that Jesus was the promised King and Messiah. For it is a King that the magi were seeking to worship.

When king Herod heard that a King was to be born among the Jewish people, he panicked and called together all the chief priests and scribes. He panicked because he was afraid to lose his throne. After consulting the chief priests and scribes, king Herod learned that it has been prophesied that the King would be born in Bethlehem, the land of Judea. [Mic. 5:1-5] Bethlehem of Judea was the birth place of king David.

Next, we heard that king Herod told the wise men to continue their journey and when they find the Child Jesus, to report back to him so he too can go and pay homage to the King of the Jewish people. As we know, king Herod had no intention whatsoever of paying homage to the Child Jesus.

And so the magi continued on their journey. The next thing we heard during the reading from the Holy Bible is that the star led them, not only to the town, but also to the house where Jesus dwelled. When the guiding star stopped over the house, the magi were overwhelmed with joy.

As the story of Christmas tell us, when the magi found the house, they entered it and found the Child Jesus with Mary His mother. They knelt before Jesus and presented Him with gifts of "gold, frankincense and myrrh" [Mat. 2:11] as prophesied in the Old Testament. [Ps. 72:10; Is. 60:6]

This reading highlights two important truths. First of all, it reveals the royal messiahship of Jesus to us. Secondly, it tells us that we as Gentiles are also called to adore the Lord Jesus as the magi have done.

As fellow heirs to the Kingdom of God, we are called to always be faithful to the first commandment of God, "I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before Me." [Ex. 20:2] When we have one God, we are loyal to Him. But if we have two masters, we cannot serve both. We will "be devoted to one and despise the other." [Mt. 6:24] "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit." [Rom. 8:5]

As we enter the new year, this provides us with a great opportunity to review our status before God. Are we faithful to God or do we have other gods? Are we preoccupied with pride, having elevated ourselves above God? Is there an obsession with food in our lives? Is there an obsession with wealth to the extend of having become uncharitable towards others?

Are some of us over-weighted and exposing ourselves to medical conditions that can affect our proper functioning in society? Is there an addiction to illegal drugs, prescribed medications or alcohol? Is our faith place in astrology, Bingos, VLT's, Casinos or other forms of gambling? All of these bad habits are detrimental to our spiritual growth, alienating us from the true God, the Lord Jesus.

As the Magi knew the true God, let us also remind ourselves of this truth. With the beginning of a new year, now is the time to make a resolution to overcome one of our bad habits. Naturally, we cannot do it alone. By the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Most Holy Name of Jesus, we can overcome all ailments that impede our spiritual growth.

Today, yes today, not tomorrow, let us review our spiritual needs and commit ourselves to overcoming one of our weaknesses so the glory of God may shine through us more effectively. May the grace of God strengthen each and everyone of you in the days, the weeks and the months to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment