YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
HOMILY THEME: SEARCHING FOR A GUIDING STAR
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
HOMILY: The image of the three wise men is seen in most Christmas cribs. They are figures that are closely associated with the birth of Jesus. One wonders why these men are considered special in the story of the birth of Christ and why the Church marked out a special Sunday soon after the celebration of the Christmas to remember the role of these men. One of the Christmas songs, which highlight the story of these men, is ‘The first Noel…’
While the feast of the Christmas calls us to remember the day on which the saviour of the world was born, the feast of the Epiphany is a celebration of the revelation or the manifestation of the infant child to the world. Jesus was born in such a humble state that not even the people in the immediate surrounding knew who it was.
St. John Evangelist describes the situation in this way: ‘He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.’ Since those around him were too busy to know him, God revealed him to those who were far away. Through the power of a guiding star the three wise men were able to find Jesus and paid him homage. Do you sometimes wonder why the wise men did not arrive as soon as Jesus was born? Some people jokingly say the wise men delayed because they wanted to avoid the Christmas rush.
Interestingly, these three wise men are said to be from the East and some scholars have explained that they were knowledgeable people of Persian origin which is the present day Iran in the Eastern world (Middle East). Israel was at that time under the Roman Empire and was considered to be part of the West. Therefore the coming of these men to Jesus came to be a symbol of uniting the Western world with the Eastern world. This unity of the eastern and western block is highlighted by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: So he is our peace. In his body he has made Jewish and non-Jewish people one by breaking down the wall of hostility that kept them apart (2:14). God freely gave his son not just to a particular people but to all who believe in him (John 3:16). I think the world today needs to rediscover the fact that Jesus has broken those artificial barriers that separated people.
The Gospel from Matthew does not specify the number of the wise men, but it is believed that they were a mix of people from the different races of the world, perhaps – Black, White, Yellow, and Brown. It is for this reason that some Christmas cribs reflect the racial diversity of these men.
GIFTS FOR THE INFANT JESUS The tradition of presenting special Christmas gifts to our beloved ones may have had some connections with the special gifts presented to Jesus by the wise men. They brought to Jesus very significant gifts such as Gold (representing his kingship); Frankincense (representing his priesthood) because it was the incense used for liturgical worship; and myrrh which is a special oil for embalmment to reflect the death of Jesus for the salvation of the world. Having shared our Christmas gifts to family and friends at Christmas, what do we have for Jesus? All he asks of us is to give him our lives and he will transform them. All he asks of us is to give ourselves in exchange for his blessings. He wants us to come simply with a humble heart, with a cheerful heart and with a heart full of thanksgiving.
SEARCH FOR DIRECTION Whenever, we embark on a journey to an unknown destination, the first thing we want to do is to search for a guide or for a map. We search for directions when we are in the dark; we search for direction when we are uncertain about the road on which we travel. Geography, Science and technology have made it much easier for us to search for travelling directions with Google maps and Driving directions. If the wise men were in the modern world of today, they would have considered exploring the power of the Global Positioning System (GPS) or Google map to direct them to the place where Jesus was born.
We are aware that the Google maps and the GPS have their own limitations. They can only guide us through physical directions and have no ability to guide us when we are in the wilderness of spiritual confusion. What then is the guiding star for a Christian today?
The guiding star for the Christian today is the Holy Spirit which Jesus says will guide us to the truth especially in our spiritual ignorance and blindness. Even though the men were wise they saw the need to go to Jesus in order to gain more wisdom. The light of the wisdom of Christ is what guides us in the journey of life. The ultimate guide in our journey of life is no longer astrology or belief in the stars, but rather the Holy Spirit, which directs and guides us on the right path. The Psalmist asks the Lord: ‘send me your light and truth to guide me and lead me to your holy mountain (43:3). The word of Guide is also the guiding star that leads us through the journey of life.
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION My first year in the Seminary was the first time I got to hear about something called ‘spiritual direction,’ Every month seminarians gathered to listen to the spiritual director speak about different topics about spirituality and prayers. In addition to this, every student was attached to a particular spiritual director who was a priest or religious for spiritual guidance. The reason for getting a spiritual director for each student was because we all came from different backgrounds and we had very raw ideas about prayers and about what it meant to live the Christian life or to be a priest. There were some of us who thought the priestly life was all about prayers without social life; others thought the priesthood was merely a social work, etc. We were also encouraged to keep spiritual journals in which we recorded our spiritual progress or backwardness based on our daily experiences. The duty of the spiritual director was to refine about unhealthy ideas about religion and holiness. Thus the spiritual director was a spiritual guide and one who showed us the right way to go.
SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT In our world of confusion, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to deliver us from the many false teachers, doctrines and religions that parade themselves as the truth and cling to Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life.
Epiphany Sunday, Year C: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3.5-6 Matthew 2:1-12