St Francis Q&A

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Feast of the Epiphany - homily

In talking with families in the parish, it sounds like Christmas Day was a day of great joy and excitement. Hearing stories about kids waking up bright and early, can’t wait to get downstairs…reminds me of my childhood. I used to be the first one up on Christmas morning and go to the top of the stairs, waiting for my brother, sister, and parents so that we could go downstairs. I’d be like, “c’mon! Let’s go!” They would finally come down the hallway and we would go downstairs.

We’d head to the crèche scene and celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. Now, I wish that I could say that this was the primary reason that I was so excited and the first one up and at the top of the stairs first. There were several other reasons in the living room – packaged very nicely, some long, some bulky. But, celebrating Jesus’ birth was certainly up there – I did get excited about that. It was a day of great excitement and joy for my family as it is for some many here.

Unfortunately, not everyone rejoices at Christmas, the birth of Christ. We hear in today’s Gospel that King Herod and all of the people of Jerusalem were “greatly troubled” at hearing the news of a newborn king. We can understand why Herod would be troubled. He was a king who had great power and he didn’t want to lose his power. He didn’t want a rival king, and certainly not a Jewish king. He is troubled. He is worried. He is afraid. I was reading a commentary by St. Augustine on this passage. He gave a great quote: “great power is subject to great fear”. He also gives an image of the leaves at the top of a tree. They blow with even the lightest winds. And so, those who are high up with power or authority or sensitive to any rumor. King Herod is troubled by the news he hears about a newborn king.

We can understand why Herod is worried, but why are the people of Jerusalem greatly troubled by hearing the news of a newborn king? After all, they were waiting for a king, for a messiah. I think it speaks of the culture; Jesus was born into a wicked culture. Another saint wrote, “the wicked can never rejoice in the coming of the just”. It was a wicked culture then, and it’s a wicked culture now. We see people today who are greatly troubled by Christmas, even in our own town. There was a group who paid for ads on metro buses just before Christmas that said, “why believe in a god? Be good for goodness sake”. Also, out west, two groups demonstrated or made signs next to Nativity scenes which slammed faith in God, particularly Christianity. Our culture is becoming more and more anti-Christian.

Jesus had an uphill battle from the start. Just out of the womb, people were greatly troubled with him. Those who were greatly troubled by his birth were also greatly troubled by his life. This is what ultimately led to his death. Those who are greatly troubled by the life of Christ are also greatly troubled by the life of a Christian who is faithful to Jesus Christ.

Finally, we see some characters in the story who are excited and joyful with the birth of Christ: the three wise men. They are “overjoyed” at the events that unfold in front of them. They are overjoyed at seeing the star and then the baby Jesus. They get on their knees and worship their God. They offer him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

My brothers and sisters, let us be like the three wise men, especially when we come to Mass. There are some around us who are greatly troubled with coming to Mass. Let us be overjoyed at what happens here – that we see the little Jesus in the form of bread and wine. We get down on our knees and worship our God. And, let us offer him gifts that are more valuable than gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Let us offer him the gift of our hearts.


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