Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord
December 21, was the shortest day of the year and the beginning of the winter Solstices. But as well, on the same day we were told that the Christmas Star would appear: the combination of 2 planets lining up… Saturn and Jupiter. This was the first time that this had happened so close to the earth since the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, most of Canada was clouded in so we did not see it. Recently, I heard the story of couple walking down King Street in Saint John, Christmas Eve Night. She said to her husband, “Look, it’s the Christmas Star!” Scratching his head, he said to his wife… “To you it might be, but to everyone else… that’s a street light!”
Humanity has long been fascinated with the heavens — especially the night sky. After the New Year’s Eve Mass, I was coming into the rectory, and as always, I looked up at the stars: the Big and Little Dipper, Orion, and North Star. Then of course we have today’s Gospel about a mysterious group lured by a star to an encounter with the child Jesus.
Matthew’s story begins with the Magi, a name given to the sky-gazing pilgrims as religious people who read the signs of the times through the stars. From the stars, they learned that a “king of the Jews” had been born. Unfortunately, these faith seekers decided to consult the current ruler, the infamous King Herod. Herod turned to local theologians to ask where a Messiah would be born. They tell him Bethlehem of Judah was the designated birthplace for the ruler who would shepherd Israel.
We heard how Herod asked them to “search diligently for the child.” Of course, he did so only for evil reasons. But because they were God-seekers, the Magi were too attentive to signs from heaven to end up being accomplices to Herod’s deadly plan.
Two thousand years later, on this date, many of us will place 3 kings, people of diversity, beautifully dresses in exotic costumes to our Nativity scenes. By doing so, we are completing the scene… bringing together the entire Christmas season. But what are we to take from it?
Possibly, the answer to this is found the title of today’s feast: the Epiphany (Revelation) of the Lord. The Magi journeyed far from home because they believed God was doing something new… something that awakened their dreams enough to shake them out of their ‘comfort zone’. Although they did not share the same religious traditions of the Judean people, something tugged at their hearts where they were. Without knowing details, they believed in a God of revelation.
As we begin this new year, the Magi might be inviting us too, to follow their lead… to read the stars, to look for epiphanies or revelations of God among us and to allow mystery to shake us out of our status quo and beyond the borders of our comfortable relationships and thought patterns.
This is 2021, we have left behind a very difficult year. Even though the ‘star’ of a vaccine for humanity has begun to ‘enlighten us’ Pope Francis invites us to learn from COVID-19. Francis calls on us to form effective networks of a ‘one people’ mentality in solidarity of the worldwide Catholic Church.
Like the Magi, may we trust in God who leads the way. And yes, we may not know exactly what we are looking for, but if we set our sights high enough, God will not hesitate to lead us into new epiphanies… new revelations where we will meet God among us in unexpected ways. Amen.