SUNDAY HOMILY: THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, YEAR B.
THEME: A Transformative Journey and Encounter
BY: Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa
On the Feast of the Epiphany (“a shining forth”), we rejoice in the luminous manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Magi, the wise Gentiles from the East. In this encounter, we see the radiant splendor of God’s salvific plan, wherein the Incarnate Word shines forth as the hope and salvation for all nations and peoples.
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Let us reflect on the six short scenes and lessons of the journey and encounter of the Magi with the newly born king (Matthew 2:1–12). Their experience shows us that a genuine encounter with Jesus leads to conversion.
In Scene 1, the Magi come from the east to Judea, looking for the King of the Jews. These wise men from the East were obviously not Jews. It is a way of saying that Gentile wise men are seeking the King of the Jews, but the Jewish leadership seems uninterested.
As Saint Anthony of Padua so eloquently put it, “The prophet’s message is like a river that flows through the desert, but his own people may not drink from it.” In this vein, we are called to discern and listen to the voices of modern-day prophets, those courageous individuals who speak truth to power and challenge us to conform our lives to the gospel, even when the message is uncomfortable or inconvenient.
In Scene 2, when Herod hears of a potential rival, he asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born. Herod’s own wise men answer the question immediately: “Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,” quoting the prophet Micah.
The Magi heard of the newly-born King of the Jews and traveled a great distance to find him. But Herod’s wise men, the Chief Priests and Scribes, know where Jesus will be born, and Bethlehem is just down the road. But they do nothing about the divine revelation.
This stark contrast exemplifies the wisdom of Saint John Bosco, who reminds us that “knowledge of the faith without practice is like a car without gasoline—it goes nowhere.” May we heed this lesson, emulate the Magi’s zeal, and translate our knowledge of God and understanding of Catholic doctrine into tangible actions.
In Scene 3, Herod passes the information he has received from the chief priests and scribes to the Magi and asks for their cooperation. “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word so that I too may go and do him homage.”
We all know that Herod’s request to ‘bring me word’ was with the intention to harm and kill the baby Jesus. “The Magi did not trust Herod’s words, and neither should we trust the words of those who seek to harm others. May we always discern the intentions of those who ask us to betray the truth,” says Saint Catherine of Siena.
In Scene 4, the Magi emerge from the shadow of Herod and follow a star to Bethlehem. Bethlehem was, of course, David’s own birthplace, and Matthew presents Jesus as the son of David. Matthew is also telling us that the long story of Abraham’s people will come to its fulfillment with a new David who will rescue his people from their exile. That is, he will save his people from their sins.
In scene 5, the Magi’s long journey ends as they enter the house, find the child with Mary, his mother, and fall down in worship. They offer the child precious gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.
Gold is seen as a symbol of kingship—this child is the infant king of the Jews. Frankincense symbolizes divinity. And myrrh is used to anoint a dead body, so this child will be victorious through suffering and death.
In scene 6, the Magi leave Bethlehem, being warned in a dream not to return to Herod. The Magi, having encountered the infant King of the Jews, crumbled their former worldview, and they are no longer at home in the old dispensation.
Annie Lobert is a powerful example of the transformative power of encountering Jesus. Annie grew up in a troubled home and was forced into prostitution at a young age. She was trapped in this lifestyle for over a decade, struggling with addiction and feeling hopeless.
But one day, while sitting in a hotel room, Annie stumbled upon a Gideon’s Bible and began reading the Gospel of John. The declaration of Jesus in John 8:32 that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” struck a chord with her.
In that moment, Annie encountered Jesus and knew she was loved and valued. She left the sex industry and began a new life. She founded an organization to help other women escape exploitation.
Just as the Magi were drawn to the star and encountered Jesus as the King of all nations, Annie was drawn to the love and grace of Jesus and found a new sense of purpose and meaning in her life. She demonstrates that a true experience with Jesus Christ means rebirth into newness of life, transformation, and a shift in how we think and act (Pope Benedict XVI).
May we, like the Magi and Annie, be open to the transformative power of Christ’s love. May our encounter with him today challenge us to repentance, forgiveness, and love of neighbor through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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