Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 5:37 PM
HONOR ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST-Saturday, June 23rd at 6:30 around the front circle for the Blessing of the Fire

010817 Epiphany - Deacon Ron

Homily Summary for the

Epiphany of the Lord ~ Deacon Landry

 

As we reflect on the gospel for this Feast of the Epiphany, our focus is on kings. As we continue our celebration of the birth of the Christchild, we recall the tradition of the three kings who came to pay homage to Jesus, the King of kings. And lurking in the background is Herod, King of Judea. Herod was coldblooded, to the point of killing his own wife and two sons in addition to countless rabbis to advance his ambitions.

King Herod was alarmed when these "wise men" from the east inquired about the birth of the king of the Jews, and when told by his priests and scribes that according to scripture he would be born in Bethlehem, he dispatches the "wise men" to Bethlehem to find this child allegedly so that he, too, might worship Jesus. However, after they paid their respects to Jesus, the Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.

Scholars tell us that the Magi, the Wise Men, or the Three Kings were astronomers and astrologers who were believed to be knowledgeable in astronomy as well as various occult arts, such as astrology, interpretation of dreams, fortune telling, and magic. These would be very important men in their day—part of the upper ranks—tantamount to kings. They consider the rising of the star they follow to the Christchild to be of world-historical significance. In their culture and time it was a common belief that the birth or death of great men was accompanied by heavenly signs such as a prominent star.

Reference to these wise men coming from the east would have had great significance in ancient Jewish culture. The word used in today's gospel for east actually means "the rising", as in the rising of the sun. In sacred scripture the image of light is often associated with the concept of salvation. Today's first reading from Isaiah declares, "Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you." The prophet's vision of salvation included a pilgrimage of the nations, drawn to Israel’s light, to worship the God of Israel. To the ancient Jews, the Gentile Magi would be understood as the fulfillment of this prophecy.

This reference to the rising appears elsewhere in sacred scripture, for example in the book of Numbers, which speaks of a star that will rise out of Jacob. This verse was interpreted messianically in Judaism, and it is understandable how a star could become a symbol for the Messiah. The magi, gentiles having come from a great distance, represent all nations. This is not an isolated local event, but universal. The star indicates that the Messiah has arrived.

Note, too, that this Jesus—this King of kings—is readily available even to shepherds, at the very bottom of the social ladder, as well as to these wise men who were equivalent to kings. Not to be overlooked is the fact that these Wise Men were scientists who practiced other religions, and God used their faith and knowledge to bring them to the Christchild. Even more ironic is the fact that God used scientists who practiced other religions to alert King Herod that the Messiah had been born. However, this King came to serve, not to be served. The contrast between the two cannot be overstated.

Each of us, in our own way and in our own time, will hopefully experience an epiphany that will bring us more closely to the King of kings, Jesus the Christ. We must always remember that faith is a gift from Almighty God, and that we must pray ceaselessly for this precious gift. And as we gaze upon the Christchild, just as the Wise men did, we appreciate that this small, humble child changed the history of all mankind.

 

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