Hi everyone, this is my homily for JANUARY 6, 2019 – the SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD. The readings for today’s Mass can be found HERE Thanks as always for reading; sharing this blog on your social media sites; and your feedback and comments. I appreciate it. Have a good week – God Bless – Fr Jim Audio: Also you can get the audios of the homilies from iTunes as a Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fr-jim-cherns-homilies/id1440618142?mt=2
A couple of weeks ago I was rushing around the Newman Center trying to cram more things into an hour then I should – run to the bank, swing by the Pharmacy, fill up the gas tank, maybe grab a cup of coffee – be back here for an appointment… Ok, sounds like a plan, grab my phone, my wallet – my keys… wait, where are my keys. I patted my pants pocket – they weren’t there. Looked on the desk. Nope. Bathroom- Bedroom – office – repeat all the same stops again… Now mind you I have this stupid long lanyard attached to them precisely to make them hard to lose which is now infuriating me even more as I tear each room apart. I’m retracing every possible step, I’m emptying garbage cans… getting more and more frazzled by the moment as my jam packed hour of chores is now shortened by 25 minutes. As I looked at the mess as “Hurricane Father Jim” blew through each room and space, I put my hands in my jacket pocket – and suprise, surprise… yeah they were right there – all along. My father’s words of exasperation from my teenage years came to mind in that moment of ridiculousness “you’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on to you”-. How could I have missed something that while not right in front of my face wasn’t too far from it?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever had such an experience…searching for something that we know has got to be here somewhere. And feeling somewhat foolish when we find it in a somewhat ordinary, routine space.
In a sense, that’s what this feast of the Epiphany that we celebrate today is all about.
I think everyone on some level is looking for God, searching for Him, longing for Him. That’s not something just limited to those who make their way to Mass every Sunday. It’s a human desire – people naturally are curious and wondering the big questions of life (Why are we here – How are we here – What comes next) and in various ways try to figure those things out … Yet more and more people don’t know God, let alone know how to find Him.
Couple that with that here at the start of another new calendar year – there’s a general sense of looking for something outside of ourselves, outside of our experiences that will transform our very lives into something new and different and great… The latest shaman promising “inner peace” – The newest relationship site promising happiness – Even different spiritual guides or leaders offering us a path to connecting with a higher power that will reshape our modes of thinking and living. Even some of us who come here every Sunday might find ourselves tempted to join the many who don’t – and turn to someplace new or different to find Him.
Hearing this Gospel, we might even be jealous of these Magi, these mysterious men from afar who are seemingly drawn by this spectacular light in the desert sky. Yet before we get lost in the Hollywood cinematic version we have in our head, where does that star lead them to. Not some miraculous supernatural sight like the parting of the red sea or a burning bush or something… we hear it leads them to a poor, simple couple – Mary and Joseph with their son and the Son of God, Emmanuel, Jesus – these humble holy people who were open to the Lord and said yes to Him. God chooses to enter into humanity here – in as ordinary and routine a place as we can imagine. Jesus becomes one of us, one with us.
That is the epiphany we are called to experience, to renew ourselves in, to proclaim to the world: God walks with us, among us. That He can be found in the ordinary, the routine – right here, among us. We don’t have to go relentlessly searching for him in some distant place. And for those who continue to walk in darkness – who do not know him, it is up to us to make Him known and make Him appear.
How do we do that? He is made manifest in every act of selflessness. He is made real in every act of sacrificial love. When we do those things, then He continues to be that light that has come – that shines even as “darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the peoples…” for as Isaiah had prophesized “no longer shall your sun go down or your moon withdraw, for the Lord will be your light forver…” (Isaiah chapter 60)
Pope Francis when he visited the United States a few years ago reflected on the words of Isaiah the prophet when he celebrated Mass in New York City. It was a memorable homily to me as he beautifully expressed:
One special quality of God’s people is their ability to see, to contemplate, even in “moments of darkness”, the light which Christ brings. God's faithful people can see, discern and contemplate His living presence in the midst of life, in the midst of the city. Together with the prophet Isaiah, we can say: The people who walk, breathe and live in the midst of smog, have seen a great light, have experienced a breath of fresh air...
Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets,
that He is part of the lives of his people,
that He is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope.
A hope which liberates us from the forces pushing us to isolation
and lack of concern for the lives of others,
for the life of our city.
A hope which frees us from empty “connections,”
from abstract analyses, or sensationalist routines.
A hope which is unafraid of involvement,
which acts as a leaven wherever we happen to live and work.
A hope which makes us see,
even in the midst of smog,
the presence of God as he continues to walk the streets of our city.
Because God is in the city…
These wise men needed to “traverse afar” (as the Christmas Carol “We Three Kings” put it) following a supernatural light from a star to find Jesus. For us, today, the epiphany is that Jesus is the Emmanuel: God with us – we are to share that Christmas Joy. Even more the Epiphany is that Jesus is the one who conquered Sin and death – He is the Risen one this Jesus remains with us – we are to share this Easter Joy.
Pope Francis continued in that Homily:
He frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness, and brings us to the school of encounter. He removes us from the fray of competition and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. We, as Christians, are witnesses to this.