Browsing Homilies

The Epiphany of the Lord (Solemnity)

Is 60:1-6 | Ps 72 | Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 | Mt 2:1-12

Do you remember all the buzz last year about the astrological event, The Great Conjunction: the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn? Apparently, this event happens every 20 years, but last year the two planets aligned so closely that they appeared in the sky like one very bright star. Also, the last time that the alignment was this close was nearly 800 years ago (1226, to be exact)! Of course, being able to see this “once-in-a-millennium” event required that you were living in a place with a clear sky … so much for us here in Cleveland.

The prophet Isaiah was right, “darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples.” We know he isn’t talking about missing an awesome astrological event, but other forms of “darkness” that cover us. We live in a world with the darkness of sickness and disease, of racial tensions spawned by deeply ingrained systems of racial inequality and injustice, of violence in our streets, senseless gun violence, struggling economies, and record-breaking natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires.

These are some of the darknesses that we encounter in our world. And, of course, there’s the darkness within us as well: greed, indifference, jealousy, gossip, prejudices, fear, hatred, the list can go on. Many are the clouds that cover us on the outside and from within. Many are the obstacles that block and hinder and distort the light and keep us from seeing the light. But, as Isaiah also says, “upon you the Lord shines!” And because of this truth, because the Lord lovingly shines his light upon us, we have reason to hope. We have hope that it is possible for the light to break through our clouds and to free us from the darkness in which we dwell!

The perpetual light of God that shines upon us is love. And with the birth of Jesus, love has come into our world! Because of God’s gracious gift, the light of love shines on us and in us in such a way that we are able to see, with eyes of faith, the possibilities of what love can do!

And isn’t this reality woven deeply into our celebration of the Epiphany? The astrologers from the East journey to find the newborn King of the Jews. Their travels bring them to an insignificant place in the world where they find a child, born of Mary. Yet, for these travelers he is no mere child. With their eyes of faith, they gaze upon this child and are filled with hope for what will come of this child of God.

With their eyes of faith, they see the potential for God’s love to raise up a king—not a king of this world, but as the psalmist writes: “A king of justice and profound peace who will rule to the ends of the earth. Who will rescue the poor when they cry out; help the afflicted when no one else cares; who will have pity for the lowly, and save the lives of the poor.” In this child Jesus, the travelers saw the possibility of salvation coming to all humanity by God’s love made manifest in Jesus.

The wondrous truth that we celebrate this Epiphany is that unlike the astrologers who searched for Jesus, we celebrate the wonder of Jesus coming to us!

Christ seeks our hearts, desiring to fill us and to transform us with the light and life that only his love can give. To receive this gift from the Lord is to be necessarily transformed by the light, so as to scatter the dark clouds of sin in our hearts. Remember, darkness and light are not equally powerful: darkness has no source of origin on its own; light, however does. Darkness is simply a depravation of the light, a lack of light. Light will always overcome the darkness. Knowing this, we can shine Christ’s light in the world as a people of peace and healing, a people of justice, compassion, and understanding, a people who reach out to all who find themselves in need.

The travelers sought the newborn king and did him homage with gifts. It is our King who gives us the gift of his very self: the gift of his light and love. Our homage, our praise, our worship is found in receiving this gift and in turn sharing this gift for the benefit of the world.


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