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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Encouragement from the Magi

Here is the text of the homily I shared this weekend, during the celebrations of the liturgy for the Solemnity of the Epiphany.  In many parts of the world, this Solemnity is always observed on January 6, but in Canada, it is transferred to the nearest Sunday, hence the delay in this year's observance.

Guided by a star

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.  One of the meanings for the word Epiphany is an appearance or a manifestation.  In this case, we recall and celebrate the fact that when the Son of God was born in Bethlehem, his birth was made known not only to those who were in the immediate vicinity, but also to those who were strangers from another land.

The prophet Isaiah foretold the manner in which this divine birth would be made known to the visitors who came from afar.  Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you (Is 60:1).  When God sent his son into the world in the form of a tiny child, it was God himself, the source of light who came to live among us, to shed his divine light over the darkness that so often enshrouds our minds and hearts.  He who had created the heavens and the earth used the constellations in the skies to guide the travels of the Magi who came to Jerusalem asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews’.

Their travels led them to Herod’s palace.  After all, they were looking for a king and kings would naturally have been born in palaces, but this was no ordinary king.  When the visitors arrived at the palace, instead of finding joy and celebration in the heart of Herod, they discovered fear: Herod was frightened when he heard that a new king had been born.  Perhaps he was insecure and worried that his position of power was being threatened.  He would never have wanted the common folk to know of such inner struggles, for exposure would have been an admission of weakness.  And what about us?  When we think about the birth of Jesus, does this thought bring us joy or does it somehow cause us to fear the possibility that some vanity or inner struggle of ours will be exposed?

Herod turned to his counselors to find out what they knew about where the Messiah was to be born.  They told him: In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet (Mt 2:5).  The chief priests and the scribes knew about this prophecy.  They themselves could have set out in search of the child, yet they stayed in Caesarea.  Sometimes we are privilege to wonderful news, but we choose not to act on it, not to share it with others because we are too timid.  If this has been case for you and for me, then today is our day, our chance to start anew, to be courageous enough to set out in search of the star that signifies the place where Jesus can be found.

The truth is that there are many stars shining in the darkened skies today.  Some of those stars beckon with the promise of success while others dangle wealth as an enticement, and sometimes those stars seem to shine brighter than any others.  However, the promises they hold are often shallow and empty.  They do not respond to the deepest thirsts of the human heart.  Only the star that leads us to the manger can guarantee us the reward of being overwhelmed with joy (Mt 2:10).

Let us pray for the grace to be courageous enough to follow the star and to welcome the gift of joy that this newborn child offers to us.  Like the Magi, when we meet him, let us open before him the treasures that we have to offer: perhaps not gold, frankincense and myrrh, but the sincerity of our faith, the fervour of our hope and the zeal of our desire to share the good news that we have encountered: Jesus Christ is born for us; come let us adore him!
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