Homily — Epiphany MMIX Jan. 4, 2009

Homily — Epiphany MMIX                Jan. 4, 2009

Today we celebrate the Twelth Day of Christmas, the Epiphany or Manifestation of Jesus to the Magi.

While the Jewish Shepherds have been kneeling around the Creche for the past 11 or so days, the Magi just arrive today because they had a longer journey to make than the Shepherds did — a longer journey geographically, and more importantly, a longer journey spiritually.

For the Jewish Shepherds, who geographically lived just a few miles outside Bethlehem, had to take a much shorter Spiritual Journey to get to the Manger as well.

The Shepherds started out closer to God and to Jesus than the Magi did.  This was because the shepherds had years of following the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, behind them, when Christmas night finally came.

The Shepherds also had all the Old Testament writings, the Word of God (although not yet complete), to walk by:  the History of God’s Chosen People, the Psalms to help them pray correctly, the Proverbs and other Wisdom books, the Prophets to call them to greater holiness.

The Shepherds also had great role models of faith to inspire them:  Abraham and Sarah, Israel, Ruth, David, Esther, the Maccabbee Brothers — all these Holy Men and Women and many others helped draw them closer to the One True God.

And lastly, the Shepherds had their Rabbis to teach them the scriptures, and their priests to offer acceptable sacrifices to God to atone for their sins and to thank Him for His blessings.

And so it was fitting that on Christmas Night, these Shepherds who were so close to God the Father to begin with would hear clearly the words of the Angel of the Lord announcing the Birth of Jesus the King of Kings;   fitting that these Jewish Shepherds would see clearly the sky filled with an army of Angels and hear loud and clear their Singing Glory to God in the Highest, fitting that the Journey to the Manger would be short and quick for these Shepherds.

In contrast, the pagan Magi had a much longer spiritual journey to make than the Jewish shepherds.

For they were raised in man-made religions, and were taught to worship false gods that pointed them in the wrong direction from where the true God could be found.

Their moral codes, while not totally bad in some areas, still were gravely insufficient to lead them to the fulness of life.

And so in each of these Magi’s country of origin, the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading bore true:  Darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds the peoples of these lands where the God of Israel was not known.

And yet the Magi were men who made it their life’s goal to rise above the thick clouds of ignorance, doubt, despair and pagan sensuality.   And piercing through this cloud cover that hung over their lands, each of them looked up and saw, off in the distance, a tiny star.  They knew then and there that this was the guiding light each of them had been searching for in life.

And so each Magi set out by himself from his pagan country, unaware that at the same time other Magi from other pagan lands were also being guided by that same star.

And as they journeyed through mountains and valleys, they eventually met up with one another and realized they weren’t alone in their search for the New Born King, and they continued on the road together, and all the while the thick clouds began to get thinner, as the star began to shine brighter.

And today, the Magi reach the end of their Journey.  They now see and adore the child Jesus with Mary His Mother, in the House they now call their home.

Darkness and thick clouds no longer cover them.  Nor do they walk any more by the dim light of a tiny star.  No, the glory of the Lord shines round about them, as bright as it shines for the shepherds.

On this Great Solemnity of the Epiphany, let us journey with the Shepherds and the Magi to Bethlehem to Adore the New Born King.

Like the shepherds, we too can take the short and fast route to the manger by daily reading the Word of God, both the Old and now the New Testament, by living by the teachings of Christ and His Church, by following the example of the Saints, and by frequent reception of the sacraments.

And  like the Magi, may we too rise above the thick clouds of disbelief and anxiety and neo-pagan sensuality that cover our land once more, and journey by the dim light of faith.  We will not be alone for long in our journey, we will meet up with other Magi from other pagan lands along the road.

May the New Born Jesus manifest Himself ever more fully,  and shine out ever more brightly and gloriously, to all Shepherds and Magi this New Year of 2009.

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