CACINA

Homily January 3, 2016 Feast of the Epiphany

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, Faith, homily, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on December 30, 2015

starofbethlehemThe feast of Epiphany is one that has come to the Western Christian church after originating in the Eastern Christian churches which grew from gentile or non- Jewish origins. The feast was seen as the manifestation of the humanity of the Son of God and was very much tied into the baptism of Jesus. The story of the magi and the word of God from the cloud was seen as the beginning of salvation leading to the crucifixion and resurrection. The Baptism of Jesus will be celebrated next week, the octave of the Epiphany. Christians in the eastern tradition still celebrate the Epiphany as the primary feast of the manifestation of the Christ child even though they also have Christmas in their calendar. The feast does show that non-Jewish Christians were not so much concerned with the Davidic lineage and Jewish scriptures as they were aware that God became man for all humanity so that all were called to a life with God. Over the centuries the Eastern and Western traditions blended together but also had and still have their differences. ckinksThe various councils of the church strove to resolve the many issues over the centuries. However, the key message of Emmanuel, God with us, is still present in both east and west and Jesus’ core message of love and forgiveness remains regardless of how much we try to make what is simple complex.

We are all called to pay homage and follow this child, to find God’s manifestation as the magi did. While we might not have a star to guide us, there are countless numbers of people around us to bring Christ to us. Whether we encounter believers or reach out to help, to aid, to feed the hungry, we do it to him for he is present there. Surely, Christ has died and risen and gone to his Father, yet still he remains among us in his Spirit and manifests himself in all kinds of ways even today.
In the feast today we are reminded that Christ is here and we carry on his work and spread his work. It would seem we are more active at Christmas, but it is as good a time as any to resolve to carry on the good we have done and maybe do more throughout the year. The homeless and hungry are still with us. How selfless are we called to be? Do we miss what is around us in terms of those in need? It is easy to dismiss the mangerneedy person and pass them by because we are in a hurry or distracted. Remember, it is the giving that is important. What more could we ask? We are not judges or keepers of morality. We should give as Christ did remembering people must make their own choices, we can only point the way and watch and wait. In giving of our selves, our goods and our time, we can be thankful that we have brought Christ to another.

Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany C 2016 (Jan 3)

Posted in Christianity, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 27, 2015

Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany C 2016 (Jan 3)

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, not a word that occurs often in our own daily lives – unless you happen to be a teacher of James Joyce and use the word in a literary sense. The word itself means “to manifest” or “to reveal”, and what is manifested on this remembrance is that Jesus was made known to be the light of the world, the one who would save mankind, the one who would radiate God’s glory.

For this reason, the imagery of the day is all about light. Isaiah, the prophet, foretells a day when the whole world will know of the glory of God, and will come to worship the one true God. “Arise, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!” He foretells of a future when the world seems dark with sin and depression, that the Lord will suddenly appear in light and all nations will work together and come to the Lord. Young and old will come from all across the land bringing gifts of thanks and proclaiming praise for God. A beautiful utopian vision of the last days of the old covenant.

The psalm picks up this beautiful scenario and talks about every nation on earth adoring God through his Son and Savior. This Son, the King,  will judge people with righteousness and give justice tot he poor of the world, and he will not cease until peace abounds. The Psalmist then picks up on the vision of Isaiah and tells him of Kings from the ends of the known earth bringing gifts and tributes to god’s Son. And what is it about this great King? Is he a conqueror? Is he a mighty warrior and military leader? No, what the psalmist picks out as his greatest qualities are that he helps the poor and needy and the week and makes sure that their needs are fulfilled and their lives are saved. What a beautiful portrait of Jesus centuries before his coming.

In the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, Paul extends the previous concept of a Jewish Savior to one that saves all mankind. He says, “In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind as it has now been revealed to his holy Apostles and prophets by the Spirit:” And what is it that has been made known by the Spirit? Paul says it is that “the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and share in the promise in Christ Jesus…”

That is the manifestation we celebrate today, then. That all nations see the light, and that light is the saving grace of Jesus.

Matthew is the only Gospel that mentions the wise men and doesn’t really say that there were three of them. I guess because there are three gifts mentioned, we presume that there were three of them. We also don’t know that they are kings. Nowhere is that mentioned int he Gospels, though tradition has it that they were.

Matthew’s story accomplishes a number of things, however. First of all, because of the light of the new star, the birth of a Savior is made manifest to people across the known land. The wise men seem to have come from different locations but of course, the star could be seen from everywhere on earth. In the Gospel’s story line, the wise men also add to the plot because they stop at the King’s palace as would any foreigner requesting permission to cross a foreign land, and Herod is told by his own people of the prophecy of Isaiah and the coming of a Messiah who would take the throne – at least, that was how they interpreted it. This will lead to a number of bad things happening – though Herod doesn’t indicate that to the wise men. He sends them out to find the child and report back to him so he might know where the child was located.

The wise men head out and somehow find the location of the birth though the child would probably be quite a bit older now since they had come from so great a distance. The child wasn’t in a stable, but in a house now. The gifts they brought could be Matthew’s attempt to bring Isaiah’s prophecy into his story since two of the gifts were what Isaiah foretold – gold and frankincense. One commentator mentioned that the gold might not have been actual gold, but the spice turmeric, which is golden in color. Such gifts of spices and oils would have been medicinal and helpful to a family with a young child.

So the Gentile wise men represent the branching out of God’s chosen people to the whole world. This would no longer just be for the Jewish chosen people, but God’s saving grace would be for all men and women, just as we read the angels proclaiming on Christmas morn. After having a dream or vision that Herod was up to no good, the wis men did not go back to Herod as they were asked but headed off for their own countries.

So what can we draw from these experiences today? Counties have been in turmoil lately because of the refugee immigrations from Syria and elsewhere. Darkness has once again visited our land. I think we need to get our minds around the fact that there is one God for everyone and He is a God for all peoples. Perhaps he manifests differently for different people. Who are we to say we know the mind of God of the ways of God. Surely we know we have been wrong many times before. Instead of criticism and fear, we need to do our best to accept all people as they are, to love them, to help them, to care for them, and thus show that we are really Christian by our love. I know that in a complex world this seems so simplistic and that our fears get in the way of really seeking to get to know and understand others. But if Jesus is really the Savior of all mankind, we need to be ready to do things that help him do his job, since we are his hands and his feet on earth today. Just something to think about as we try to open all the doors and let this great light shine in for all. And this is the Good News the Epiphany brings today.

Ronald Stephens 

Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[Volume 3 (Luke) of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast from the last Cycle C, is available from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany, Year A 2013-14

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture, Uncategorized by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 29, 2013

Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord, Year A  2014

[Bishop Ron’s collected homilies for the last year A can be found on Amazon.com for under $10. It is called “Teaching the Church Year”.]

Most of us have not seen all three of the gifts of the Wise Men – gold, frankincense and myrrh, so I brought some in today for us to have a look, but particularly in the context of the story we are told today on this Feast of the Epiphany. I will be concentrating predominately on the Gospel today from Matthew though I will try to tie in the other readings as well.

Kar Rohner in a sermon he gave on this feast made what I think is a really interesting and insightful point. He noted that the feast of the Epiphany is at the end of what we still call Christmas, and that there is a circular pattern set up with the Feast of Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany. On the Feast of Christmas God came to us and gifted us. On the Feast of the Epiphany we came to God and gifted God.

If we think about that for a moment we can get overwhelmed by the beauty and symmetry of it. God lowered who God is, and came to earth in the lowest of human forms – a baby, helpless and fragile. God who is all powerful, all-knowing, became one of us in our most primitive form. If that wasn’t gift enough, God came bearing the gift of grace that Paul tells us about in the Epistle to the Ephesians today, and that we receive not through any merits of our own, but simply because God loves us and chooses to give us this.

On Epiphany we celebrate the reverse. The three Wise Men or Kings as they are sometimes known as, left everything behind them – they left their country of origin, their wealth, their families. Through their astrology they knew that something wonderful was at the end of the journey, so they were willing to travel far, taking a difficult journey, led by a star that had appeared in the night. They somehow knew that the star that recently glowed in the sky foretold the birth of a mighty King, a special person, someone destined to be great. And so they were willing to make the perilous journey. On the way they encountered the machinations of a jealous king and were thrust into a political situation that didn’t want to be part of. But they continued. They persevered because there was this end in sight. Would they have been surprised to see their journey end at such a humble stable? A helpless child? Two simple parents?

Even if they were surprised, they offered the child gifts, just as the child was to offer himself for us. Gold, frankincense and myrrh. Whether these were actual gifts or the Gospel’s writer’s way of making a theological point, we can see these gifts in retrospect as symbolizing love, worship of God and suffering – all three of which point to the life of the child before them.

The story of the Wise Men may or may not have factually happened. It may have come from the inspired imagination of Matthew through the prophecies of Isaiah that we read today – “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Is 60.3) and “They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” (Is 60:6) But the truth still remains. Nations have come to know the Lord, and they know God through Jesus Christ’s suffering, his love and his obedience to God.

What can we see of this in our lives today? Like the Wise Men we are on a journey as well. And if we are to have happy, fulfilled lives, we have to know the end of that journey. We have to see the star that tells us that our God is at the end of that journey waiting for us, and maybe not in the way we even imagine it. If we keep that end in sight, we can put up with the perilous journey that we take through life, the ups and downs of our relationships, the suffering and sickness, the plunderers, the sins that pull us down and weigh heavy on us, the depressions that we sometimes sink into. How do we keep going? What sustains us through all the bad parts of life? It is knowing what the end will be and how we can give God the gift of ourselves – our love, our praise, our sufferings. As the Psalmist says today: God delivers the needy one who calls…and saves the lives of the needy.” (Ps 72:12-13) And we are indeed needy on our journeys through life.

Let the Feast of the Epiphany remind us of the Star that points out the end of that journey, and let us offer God our gold, frankincense and myrrh – our love, our praise and our suffering. Then we can enjoy life forever with God, and as Isaiah says today: “Then shall you see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice.” (Is 60.5) And this is the very Good News that is our Star to guide us on this journey. God has indeed blessed us!

 

Bishop Ron Stephens

Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese

         Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

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