Homily for Epiphany, Year A: Salvation for people of all nations

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Epiphany. Epiphany means manifestation. The new born baby reveals himself as light of all nations represented by the magi, three non-Jew travellers from the East, who come to adore Jesus. Pray that we may be attentive to the little stars that God sends on our way.

Bible readings
Isaiah 60: 1–6
Ephesians 3: 2–3, 5–6
Matthew 2 1–12

Epiphany, salvation for entire humanity

Jesus reveals himself beyond the Jewish world   to mean that he has come to save entire humanity. Jesus is a Jew born among Jews yet his mission goes beyond ethnic boundaries. That’s the generosity of God who reaches out to all. How do I respond to those signs through which God reaches out to me?

The Magi are inquirers

The Magi put themselves on the road in search of meaning. I can imagine, the magi believed in something that gave sense to their life. However, they weren’t frozen in it. They seemed to be on the lookout for something that would help them understand themselves better. That’s why, seeing that little sign of the star, they couldn’t hesitate but put themselves on the road. Possibly, they may have had boggling questions on religion but that wasn’t a reason for them to thrust into trash can what they didn’t understand. On the contrary, it motivated them and kept them moving in search of understanding. Their effort saw them to an encounter with Christ the Light of the world. It’s not the case with those who live their faith like in a shell.

Fundamentalists are frozen believers

The attitude of the Magi is quite different from the extremes we see these days. There are others who in the midst of unanswered questions and doubts just give up on their faith –shovelling everything in the waste bin. Others hold on to their faith with certain arrogance and rigidity so much that they have no room to learn anything new. They think they alone have the truth to the point of becoming violently intolerant to those who see things differently. They become religious killers.

In either case, such people have become frozen onto themselves. They have abandoned the pilgrimage. They will never listen, not even to God. On the contrary, when we put ourselves on the road, with an open spirit of genuine inquirers, there we realise that despite the “rituals” that separate us, we are actually united in the common and sincere search for meaning. Consequently, there’s no pagan and neither is there a reason to tear one another apart simply because we are conscious of a profound sense of fraternity with entire humanity.

Epiphany, celebration of revelation and response

In this feast we celebrate not only God who reveals himself but we also marvel at the Magi’s adventurous response of faith. Things are not as clear as black and white, yet, the magi follow the dimming star with unwavering fidelity till reaching Jesus, the Morning star that marks the end of their night and announces daybreak in their lives.

Epiphany in progress

We are not celebrating history. God still speaks to us. He still gives us signs of his guiding hand. That’s why we need the intelligence and the availability, with the attitude of faith, in order to read the sign when he beacons us. The question is, am I awake enough to recognise his sign and put myself on the road in response?

Perhaps I’m happily married, I have good job and good salary, so, what else do I need? I become frozen in my luxury. Or it could be also out of my misery I give up on life. It’s a similar problem with some people of Jerusalem.

Where do I place myself?

Am I like chief priests and scribes? Well, they have all the knowledge to the point of calculating how God should act. Yet they are frozen with terrible indifference. Or am I like Herod to whom the new born baby is an opponent? For that reason he mobilises the entire city to know more about the child, not in seeking meaning, but to protect his power. It means, I may have a good knowledge of catechism and I have memorised Bible phrases and yet I remain sterile what regards living an authentic Christian life. Or I may be like Herod who represents those of us to whom the supreme master is my desire, my aspirations, my power, my wealth and I bow to no one. And who ever comes my way is candidate for elimination. That’s contrary to the Magi’s attitude.

They leave their homes, put in hibernation what they have always known and believed. They are curious to know where that little star will see them. And when they finally find the infant Jesus they bow before him in adoration. Doesn’t that look like a pilgrimage common to entire humanity?

When the star goes off and my life hits the rock

Our life journey is an adventure with its hardships. There are times when I no longer see the star, I try to feel my way but I don’t just know where to go. It’s like my life is hitting the rock. For such moments, we can draw some encouragement from the First Reading.

Isaiah tells Jerusalem: “Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…Lift up your eyes and look around
.” Don’t be mistaken. This is not about a time of joy. It’s a moment of disillusionment and discouragement. What’s happening?

The people of Israel have come back from exile, the return that they awaited with great enthusiasm. On their arrival, they have to reconstruct their lives: their houses, their city, and the temple. This makes them realise that the return demands more than simply taking the road back home. It demands hard work of reconstruction. There’s a danger of getting stuck in depression. That’s why Isaiah gives them a bit of morale: get on your feet and rebuild yourselves.

Such disillusionment is not foreign to us. Isaiah’s call is equally pertinent to us: Rise and shine. Look up and look around, there’s a little sign out there for you. God beacons you, put yourself on the road. And your response in faith will be rewarded with daybreak.

Return by different route

After meeting the infant Jesus the Magi are not the same person who came in the dark of the night. The little, blinking star blossoms into full-fledged light. It’s only normal that they go back by a different route. You can’t meet the Light of the world and remain the way you came. After meeting Christ in his word, do I go home still hurting and hating as I came?

Lord, at this epiphany give me the grace to be happier than I was before.

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See also:

Solemnity of Epiphany B: The Magi in Wonder

Epiphany C: Walking Through New Year with Hope