Homily for The Epiphany of the Lord, Year B 2015
The Epiphany of the Lord, Year B 2015
St. Paul talk to the Ephesians today about the mystery that had been made known to him by Revelation. It was something that no one ever understood before, and that was that God had now invited non-Jews into what had been the birthright only of the Hebrew nation. All these years God had chosen only one people as his heirs, but now he was opening his kingdom up to all people. This revelation was indeed an ‘epiphany’ for Paul, if by the word epiphany we mean “seeing the light” and coming to a new understanding. As a practicing and devout Jew Paul had taken pride in the fact that he was among the chosen people and had been very strict in his following of the letter of the law of the Jewish commandments, not admitting even free thinkers into that company. That was why he had persecuted the early church. But Paul literally saw the light on one of his journeys, and was thrown off a horse and blinded by it. And in that epiphany, he saw Christ and learned that he was to open the gate to the Gentiles allowing them to become the chosen people of God.
While the feast of the Epiphany we celebrate today isn’t about Paul’s own epiphany, it is quite fitting that this reading was chosen because the Gospel today describes an Epiphany in which men who were not Jews but probably astrologers, saw in the sky a star or a falling star which they believed heralded the birth of someone who would change the world as they knew it. They sought out this person in the story we hear today, following the trajectory of the star and arriving in Judea sought this person. It came to the attention of King Herod who was fearful of someone removing him from the throne, especially since his own counsellors recount the prophecies of the prophets, like Isaiah, telling of this event.
There were, of course, prophets who talked about all the nations worshipping the one Hebrew God. The first reading we have of the prophet Isaiah today is probably the most influential of these. The idea of seeing the light is expressed as God’s glory shining in the darkness, and because of this, kings and nations shall realize that God exists, and all shall come to God.
In the Gospel today the wise men from the East are possibly used by Matthew to express the truth that Christ, by his Incarnation, has started the process whereby all men and women can be the heirs of God. By using the references to Isaiah and creating the Kings who bring gold, frankincense and myrrh to the child, Matthew is able to tie in the non-literal prophecy of Isaiah with he reality that he wants to present – that this child was to redeem all people, and with his death, salvation was open to all nations. It is interesting that Matthew added myrrh to the story – you may have noted that in Isaiah the kings just bring gold and frankincense. The myrrh is an important addition because myrrh was used in the embalming of someone, and it is Matthew’s way of preparing the reader of the death and sacrifice which was to com in his story.
It is not important whether or not we believe there were actually three wise men or not because it is the truth behind the story that we need to get to in order to have the Gospel affect out own lives. The truth is that God has sent Jesus, the light that shines in darkness, to bring about the salvation of all the world. The truth is that we have been saved, that we have been given a gift that we don’t even deserve, all because God has chosen us, and in his infinite mercy and seen fir to reward us this way. It is not that we have been good and so have been rewarded, but actually the reverse. We have been rewarded not for anything we have done, but must now express our thanks by acting in a good way. As usual, God has reversed the human way of thinking and interacting.
If we get anything from the feast of the Epiphany today, I hope it is that we need to express our thanks to God more often, we need to realize that in trying every day to be a better, more perfect human being, we are just reciprocating what God has done to us. It is a different way of thinking about things – and so, maybe we all can have an epiphany of sorts today as well, as we look at our relationship with God in a new light.
And this is the bright and glorious Good News I present to you today.
Bishop Ron Stephens
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]