My homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Year C) as preached at the 5pm Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.
The readings were Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12.
“The Magi, whoever they were, came to encounter Jesus Christ through following the signs that guided them. Are we able to be the signs that others might follow so they too can come to know the Promised One?”
Their names are not recorded in the Scriptures although tradition names them as Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar. We don’t know from whence they came, just from some place in the east. We don’t know what their job was. They’re described as magi, which can cover a multitude of occupations. We don’t know anything about them in particular. All we know is that they had seen a sign and they were determined that this sign was something to be followed because it was going to lead them to something they were seeking and searching for, the Promised One.
So they set out from wherever it is that they set out from and made their way first to Jerusalem where they encountered Herod who provided them with some answers. Herod, of course, had his own particular reasons for wanting to go and visit with the child but will deal with them at another point in time. They were there and given another sign, the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah that said out of Bethlehem in the land of Judah would come the one who would shepherd the people of Israel. Two signs they had received and they were determined to pursue them to find the one thing that they were searching for, the fulfilment of God’s promise as they understood it at that point in time.
They didn’t know exactly what it was they were going to encounter they just knew they had to seek and search and here were the signs given to them that would allow them to do exactly that. And so the star appears again and leaves them to Bethlehem. To a stable.
And there in that place, they finally encounter the one thing that they had been searching for all that time, in the form of a child, Jesus, in his mother’s arms. There in that place. And having come into the presence of the Divine One they fell to their knees and worshipped. They had journeyed from wherever it was they had journeyed from knowing that they were going to come into the presence of whatever it was they were seeking. And so eventually they did.
Of course, that begs the question for this day and age just exactly what will the signs be for others to follow that might bring them ultimately into the presence of God.
And I’ve got some bad news for you.
It’s you. And it’s me. It’s us.
We are the signs that other people will encounter when they are in this mode of seeking and searching for something that they do not yet know. When they encounter the signs that is us, the people of God, the Body of Christ in this place, they will be drawn further and further towards that which they are seeking yet do not know.
But only if we’re prepared to be those signs. Only if we’re prepared to be the great star if you like that allows other people to know what it is and where it is that they are going in order to seek that which they are seeking.
If someone was to walk into this building right now would they see that sign? Or would they just see a group of people who happened to come to Mass at 5 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon?
Hopefully, when somebody comes in here seeking something that they do not know, they encounter a true sign of God’s presence, a true sign that allows them to come into the presence of something that they do not know, but they know they are seeking and searching for in their lives. Like the magi, they are following the signs that they are given and we need to be those signs in this day and age. Otherwise, people won’t know, people won’t encounter the promised one, the fulfilment of God’s promise that is made manifest in our gospel.
Our task if we wish to be authentic with our identity as Christians is to align ourselves more and more each day with the promise and the commands of the gospel. When we do that, and when we witness to that, we can be a very powerful sign into the world that allows others to come into the presence of God when they are seeking it.
On the flip side, however, when we don’t, when we get it wrong, we can do a lot of damage.
So on this Feast of the Epiphany, as we come together here into the presence of the one whom we know, our task, if we wish to be authentic, is to align ourselves to that which we know, to that which we have received, so that we can be a sign into the world for others who are seeking but yet do not know who they wish to encounter. Through us other people will encounter the one that we know, they will encounter the promised one, Jesus Christ himself.
But only if we’re prepared to take on the role of being the symbol and the sign that allows them to seek that which they are seeking. And when they do come, when they come into the presence of God because of the example we have set before them, because we have been prepared to be a sign for them, they will come, and like the magi, they will fall to their knees and worship our God.