HOMILY FOR EPIPHANY SUNDAY.
THEME: YOUR LIGHT HAS COME: LET HIM SHINE.
BY: Fr. Vincent Onwukwe.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY JANUARY 7TH.
One major characteristic of light is that it cannot be hidden; it always shines. Hence, Isaiah exclaimed: “Arise and shine for your Light has come” (Is 60:1). Moreover, since Jesus is ‘the Light’, we must let Him shine. In the story of the coming of the Magi from the East, we observe various attitudes that can either let Jesus shine or become an obstacle to His manifestation.
The first attitude is expressed by the wise men who came from the East – the attitude of acknowledgement and adoration. They were so committed to their desire to encounter Jesus. They made a long journey because they valued Jesus and knew their need for Him. And when they eventually found Him, they gave Him precious gifts. They gave Him four gifts; yes, four, not three. They did not only give Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which were the second, third, and fourth gifts. The first gift was more important and superior to the others; they gave Him a gift of themselves: They prostrated and worshipped Him (Mt. 2:11). This is an expression of total submission. It was also the first gift received by Jesus. This challenges the materialist trend that characterises Christianity today to a great extent. We can learn from those wise men that while it is good to offer material gifts to the Church, the poor, and the needy, to name but a few, we must not forget that Christianity is more about a deep and holy relationship with God than being charitable. But none of the two aspects of ‘giving’ should be ignored. God wants us to make donations for church projects, pay tithes, and so on, but He desires more that we surrender our whole life to Him by building a relationship with Him, in which we accept Him as our Father and Master while we are His loyal servants and children. The Macedonian Church understood this principle very well, giving themselves first to the Lord before performing charitable acts for the growth of the Church (2 Cor 8: 1-5).
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Contrary to the acknowledgement and adoration attitude displayed by the Magi, Herod played out the attitude of discomfort and hatred, a hatred that made him desire to kill Jesus. Herod was the king of Judea, but unlike the wise men, he was unaware that Christ had been born in his jurisdiction. When Herod heard the news about the birth of the newly-born ‘King’, he was troubled. He was worried because he was so obsessed with and addicted to political power that he did not want to share it with anyone.
Oh my God! Herod was troubled because Jesus was born. How troubled and uneasy would he have been if he had stood before the judgment throne of Jesus? The book of Revelation describes how uncomfortable people like Herod would be in the presence of Jesus when He sits on His judgment throne (Rev. 6:15-17): they will want to hide from Him, but there would be no hiding place. What a terrifying experience!
Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, instructing them to search for the child and, after they had found him, to report to him so that he, too, may go and worship him. However, after they saw Jesus, the Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. Similarly, Joseph was warned in a dream that Herod intended to kill Jesus, so he and his family fled to Egypt. When Herod realised he had been outwitted, he ordered his men to kill all boys aged two and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity. By so doing, he plotted to kill Jesus.
Like Herod, many people, knowingly or unknowingly, have plotted the death of Jesus in their society, family, and hearts. This reference to the death of Jesus should be understood as a metaphor for awakening us to allow the life of God in us to manifest. We kill God when we are so preoccupied with our worldly cares – search for beauty, fame, wealth, etc. – to the point that we have no time for God. God is dead in our hearts when we, like Herod, are more interested in our ego that we find it challenging to submit ourselves to God. God does not live in our hearts when we remain in sin; for God can only dwell in a holy and pure heart. Jesus, the God with us, is a Treasure we cannot afford to lose. We must therefore spare no effort to keep Him alive in our hearts.
May the light of God never cease to shine in your lives. Amen!
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