Saturday, January 7, 2017

HOMILY - Feast of the Epiphany (Year A) 2016

I had to laugh during Fr. John’s homily last Saturday. It was during the vigil Mass for the Solemnity for Mary, the Holy Mother of God; it was also the evening Mass on New Year’s Eve and hours before the Ohio State football game; and the intention for the Mass was for our former, much beloved pastor, Monsignor Grimes – may his soul rest in peace. I had to laugh thinking that somehow Fr. John was channeling Msgr. Grimes as Fr. John gave a two minute homily as if to allow those in attendance (and maybe even the celebrant himself) to more quickly get to their New Year’s Eve party and to watch the Ohio State game – just seems like something Msgr. Grimes might do?! However brief, Fr. John’s words were excellent. He challenged us to model the Blessed Virgin Mary as she 1) listened, 2) pondered, and 3) acted upon God’s words and events in her life. I have been praying a lot this week over this challenge, especially as we conclude the Christmas season with the Feast of the Epiphany this weekend. I have been praying a lot over the fact that how too often I fail to do any of these three well, let alone all three together! But, it is the Christmas season and especially the Feast of the Epiphany that gives me encouragement and hope as I try to model Mary. The light, brightness, radiance and glory overflowing in today’s First Reading points to our loving God who throughout history and even at this very moment is speaking to us, inviting us (again and again) to be in relationship with him – a relationship that will bring us great joy and peace! A defining moment in this relationship is what we celebrate at Christmas: that God so loved us that he became man to show us how to love and be loved, to show us how to follow God’s commands and to do his will; and to then repair what has been broken by our failure to love and be loved, by our failure to follow his commands and to do his will not our own. The Epiphany then is a reminder that this wonderful relationship and the joy and peace that comes from being in this relationship is not exclusive to a few, but open and available to ALL people. Today’s First Reading reminds us that ALL - a once defeated and scattered Israelite people, as well as peoples from foreign lands – will come to see and know and give glory to our God who loves us and goes to great lengths to keep his covenant relationship with us. Paul in today’s second reading passionately reminds us that ALL people are called to be members, coheirs, and copartners in this relationship and its physical presence on Earth: the Church. And then in the Gospel, the author Matthew, a Jew, writing to a primarily Jewish community, stresses to them (and us) that God’s gracious love extends to ALL – by having the magi, who were not Jews, to be the first to pay homage to the new born king: Jesus Christ. Equally important on this Feast of the Epiphany is that our God is ever-present in our life. Maybe not always in dramatic ways, like entering in to our humanity or coming to us in dreams as we have read about today and throughout the Christmas season from the Infancy Narratives of the Gospels. More often it is the less obvious encounters and experiences of our daily lives that we experience our loving God speaking to us, caring for us, protecting us, guiding us, comforting us, empowering us – and often in wonderful and mysterious ways. Today, it is hard sometimes, with so much noise, to hear, see and experience God in our lives; or we are so consumed with our own wants and needs, our fears, anxieties and insecurities that we can’t or don’t want to experience God. And we see this play out in today’s Gospel. Herod is so self-consumed that he completely misses the one thing that he longs for, the one thing that will bring him what his heart most desires: God’s love in the person of Jesus Christ. Compare that with the magi who were willing to go to great lengths, take great risks, and to give away great wealth to experience God – I can only imagine the great joy and peace they must have experienced in seeing the infant! I will conclude by repeating Fr. John’s challenge from last week to: 1) listen, 2) ponder, and 3) act upon God’s words and events in our life. I will only add (humbly to Father’s challenge) that you pray for the grace, the help you need, to 1) be open to hear, see and experience God in your life; 2) to slow down enough to discern honestly, humbly and fully what God is calling you to do; and 3) to confidently and courageously do God’s will and to share God’s love with others. May God bless you!