HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

HOMILY THEME: “WHERE THE SUN IS, THE STARS HAVE NO LIGHT” Mt 2:1-12

BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas

 

HOMILY:

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word “epiphaino”, a combination of two words: “epi” (upon) and “phaino” (show). Literally, it means, “to show upon”, or manifestation. In Christian usage, Epiphany connotes the manifestation of the glory of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles represented by the Wise Men or Magi.

Who are these Wise Men or Magi? How many are they? What are their names? We have no definite answers to these questions. Scriptures say that they were men of great learning, particularly in the field of astrology and the occult. The appearance of an unusually bright star moved them to search for the newborn King. Through the guidance of this star, they found the Holy Infant lying in the manger in Bethlehem.

Although they were Gentiles, they came to offer homage to Jesus and to bring Him the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These are gifts that convey profound meaning and symbolism. Gold is a gift fit for a King, for indeed, Jesus is the King of kings. Frankincense is a gift for a priest. The Magi perceived Jesus as priest, the bridge between God and man. Myrrh is a fragrant gum resin, which was used as incense, perfumes and medicines. But its most notable use was that of an embalming material, used in Egyptian mummies. While the Magi acknowledged Jesus as king and priest, they also perceived that He would die for the salvation of mankind. St. Odilo of Cluny said: “To offer gold is to proclaim Christ’s kingship, to offer incense is to adore his Godhead, and to offer myrrh is to acknowledge his mortality.”

This feast expresses the fact that the birth of the Incarnate Word was known throughout the world. This is the meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. This is what we proclaimed in the Psalm: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you!” St. Gregory the Great said: “When the king of heaven was born, the heavens knew that he was God because they immediately sent forth a star; the sea knew him because it allowed him to walk upon it; the earth knew him because it trembled when he died; the sun knew him because it hid the rays of its light.”

The coming of the Magi to visit the Newborn King in Bethlehem was a clear message that the birth of Jesus was a significant event not only for a small group of people but for the entire humanity as well. For, indeed, Jesus is the savior not just of the Jews but also of all mankind. Their encounter with the Holy Infant gave the Magi their first-hand experience of His saving power. This experience radically transformed them. They came as astrologers; they left as believers. They came as searchers; they left as followers. They came aided by the bright star; they left guided by divine wisdom. They came as Magi; they left as Wise Men.

Behind this wonderful and radical transformation is their realization that finding Jesus means having everything. We can relate this with our everyday experience. At night, we delight at seeing the moon and the bright stars. But as the night is about to end and the horizon gradually brightens, the stars begin to fade away, until only the bright Morning Star is left in the sky. But when the sun starts to rise in the east, the Morning Star also disappears. The true light has come. The moon and the stars fade away with the coming of the sun. Similarly, the Magi no longer need stars and heavenly bodies for they now have found the true Light of the World. The poet Lope de Vega wrote a beautiful poem, La Llegada de los Reyes Magos – The Arrival of the Magi Kings. Lope de Vega describes how the star guided them in the dark night, but when they found Jesus, the stars faded. Here are a few lines.

You Kings, who come from the East, are searching the night sky, looking at their beautiful lights.

Do not follow them now, for where the sun is, the stars have no light.

St. Thomas Aquinas, called the Angelic Doctor, wrote his philosophical and theological masterpiece, Summa Theologica. Towards the end of his work, he had a mystical experience. In a vision, he saw the glory of God. Coming back to his senses, he threw down on the floor all his writings, saying: “All these are straw!” He realized that all his human wisdom and erudition are of no value – “straw” – compared to the glory of God that he saw even only for a fleeting second. This realization also made the great mystic St. Teresa of Avila conclude: “Solo basta Dios!” (God alone suffices).

The encounter with Jesus, the God in the flesh, should make us understand that nothing really matters in this world but God. When we have God in our lives, we do not need anything else, for we have everything. Where the sun is, the stars have no light.

And yet, we have to ask ourselves: Do we really have God in our lives? If we believe that Jesus is our only God and Savior, why do many people still continue to read the horoscope, believe in fortunetellers and feng shui, and admire black magic and witchcraft? Just look at how popular and successful are the books and movies of Harry Potter and the vampires. How many of us have the image of Buddha in our homes? Is Jesus not enough for us?

Unfortunately, for many people, that is the case: Jesus is not enough. This is demonstrated in the example of King Herod. He sought to kill the Child whom he considered to be a real threat to his ambition for power and wealth. For many people, the desire for material wealth and worldly power leads them to ignore God and turn to magic, horoscope, astrology, and fortunetelling. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it very clear: “Consulting horoscopes, astrology, (etc.) contradict(s) the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone” (no. 2116).

Furthermore, the Magi were called Wise Men because they used their scientific knowledge not for their personal gain and ambition, but to search for the truth and the real meaning of life. And so they rejoiced in finding the Lord Jesus. What we see now is the opposite. Many people use science and technology to eliminate God from human society. There is a flagrant and concerted effort by worldly people to put science over and above divine revelation and the Word of God.

The new year has just begun. Let the lesson of the Wise Men serve as our guiding principle. Let us cast away the spirit of materialism, pride and egoism. Let us begin this year in the spirit of profound humility and awe before the glory of God. Like the Wise Men, let us seek Jesus in our lives, worship and love Him, and then we become heralds of the good news in the world.

Fr. Mike Lagrimas 
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422

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