Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Catholic Reflections 586 : Homily Epiphany of the Lord. Year A - 8th January 2017

Homily Epiphany of the Lord. Year A - 8th January 2017

First reading      Isaiah 60:1-6 

Responsorial Psalm. 71(72):1-2, 7-8, 10-13. “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”

Second reading. Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

Gospel       Matthew 2:1-12

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Although our popular tradition holds that there were three wise men… it actually doesn’t say in the bible how many wise men there are…. It only mentions that three types of “gift” were given….. (there could have been more than three bringing these symbolic gifts). In the eastern church, there is an alternate tradition that there were twelve wise men…. But really it doesn’t matter how many…. 

What does matter is that people from foreign lands, who were not members of the Jewish faith, realised that a King had been born… a special King.. and they came to give him homage… while others.. who were part of the religious tradition of Jesus did not see the signs and missed out on this unique opportunity

One of the great messages from the readings of today’s mass is that the light of God’s glory is revealed in Jesus, (God made flesh), and shines through in the humanity of Christ; and this light has been seen and accepted by others. 

This is a challenging theme because lots of the times us humans can miss the divine light in the events and people of our daily lives……... if we are distracted or if we do not expect to find the extraordinary.. which is “hiding in plain sight” within the ordinary and the “everyday” - We can potentially miss the light of Christ at work around us, and we don’t always recognize the light of Christ in one another. 

The gifts brought by the wise men are significant…
Gold, frankincense and myrrh

Gold… for a King….

Frankincense … a beautiful perfume… A symbol of holiness, reverence and prayer. 
Myrrh…... a bitter perfume (as the hymn says) . Used in anointing the dead in preparation for their burial… a symbol of Christ’s humanity and his suffering and his death to save us all. 
The Wise men recognised that Christ was Priest, Prophet and King….. They worshipped him as King of all creation, they saw his holiness… and they fore-shadowed that he would save us by his suffering and death on the cross; when he gave giving of his life for us…..

Let us, in our prayer, in our actions and our priorities.. always recognise Jesus as our King, (ever-open to the light of Christ shining in others and in the events of our lives…. And cooperating with what God is doing there). //Let us be reverent and gentle; and worship always God’s holiness… // and let us join Christ in his self-sacrificing love; his loving service of others for the sake of the Good news… 

Whenever I read this gospel passage… I cannot help but be struck by the disturbing irony in it….. 

King Herod summons the Wise men from the East… We are told that they give him a hearing… They listen to what he has to say…. (but fortunately they do not do what he asks of them, they listen, they reflect and then they decide and act). They initially come to listen to him…. They don’t know him, ….. They know he is a King… The wise men would probably assume he was a noble and gracious King…. but he is not… he is filled with fear, and possibly hatred and jealousy…. Herod’s intentions were murderous. ….

Herod manages to control his emotions while he is consulting with the Wise men….. he pretends to be genuinely interested in the Star, and the possibility of a king being born……… I almost imagine he is choking on his words when he says… “when you find him,,, tell me too… because I too want to go and ….. do….. him…… …(ahem)…. ‘homage’…… We, the listeners…. The audience to this Gospel drama…. Know better…. Herod hates Jesus… and rejects his Kingship…. And wants to kill him…. He might as well have said…. “ (when you find him,,, tell me too… because I too want to go and ….. ‘do him in’ !!!).

Herod is a liar ! He wants to tear down, not to build up ! …. to destroy and blot out forever the child who is the hoped-for ‘Light for all nations’….. Can there be any fear… or any hatred greater than one that wants to blot out HOPE from the earth……For the sake of his own power… His own comfort????  
It is fitting that the Wise Men, after having met Jesus, ‘go home by another road’ – So, although they listened to Herod, it is clear that they didn’t swallow everything he said….. 

Instead…. They have been converted… They are different! ….Changed!! ….// New men… in fact… they will never again be able to go down the old paths… Everything is different now, having met and discovered Jesus. …. They will not go and tell (fearful, murderous) Herod about what they have seen… but instead they resolutely go home by a new pathway…. (Their lives changed) to live the new reality of what they have experienced……

In the gospel today, the Wise Men from the East ultimately FIND the King for whom they had searched so diligently …….. Jesus ! …. And this King (the greatest the world will ever witness)….  Is revealed as a humble, vulnerable baby lying in an animal’s food trough…. This is revelation of God and God’s Glory… to all the world……. Here is the LIGHT of revelation for all nations.  
The gospel today uses the quote from Micah…. “you Bethlehem are by no means the LEAST”…. this is really important……  
Not only is Bethlehem FAR FROM BEING the LEAST of all cities… but this humble baby, in a humble manger, is not by any means the LEAST of all babies…. and the shepherds are not anywhere near the least of all people…… There is more than one REVELATION going on here (for all with the eyes of faith to see!)… The message is repeated in later sections of Matthew’s gospel: (The wise men, and us too… are being shown something deeply significant…..) 

At first sight, the ‘poor and forgotten’ “the outcast” and “the outsider”  the “humble”…. As well as  “sinners” of our society are seen by some corners of society as less-significant. Less important, less worthwhile…. …. but this is shown to be very WRONG…. The lowly are in fact GREAT… because it is THROUGH Christ’s presence and action amongst the poor and downcast, that the Lord is coming to us……. 
The reaction of the Magi is interesting too…… when they enter the presence of God… revealed in his humble baby in a manger… they immediately open up treasures chests filled with gifts…… 
This must always be our reaction too, in the presence of God….. when we come before the presence of Jesus… we too must open up our hearts and offer God our gifts…… the response of a person to the revelation of God’s presence is one of openness, generosity and service……… 
What is it that WE are laying before the Lord??……. let us think about what gifts we are presenting to Jesus for him to make use of…….

Unlike the wise men, we have no gold…. But we give our love….

We have no frankincense….but we give the lord our prayers, our openness and reverence….

We have no myrrh… but we give our work… and ourselves.. at the service of our Lord…

Reflection: Paul Kelly/ ; also Mark Link: Vision – Year A/ ; Gustavo Gutierrez: Sharing the Word through the Liturgical Year / ; and Abbot’s homily:

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Epiphany of the Lord. Year A

The Lord be with you.
Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins,
and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.
Lord Jesus, you came to reconcile us to the Father and to one another: Lord, have mercy//You heal the wounds of our sin and division: Christ, have mercy// You intercede for us with the Father: Lord, have mercy//
Memorial Acclamation

1. We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection, until you come again.

2. When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.

3. Save us, Saviour of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.
Preparation of the Gifts
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.
Blessed be God for ever.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.
Blessed be God for ever.
Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God,
the almighty Father.
May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.

Epiphany p.18

Euch Prayer II p.56

Go in peace.


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