A Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord, 2021
The main message of the Epiphany is this: when God manifests Himself, He also draws all to Himself.
The Prophet Isaiah depicts what happens when God manifests Himself in Jerusalem, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” The result is that all people are drawn to Jerusalem, the Israelites in diaspora as well as people from distant lands bearing precious gifts, “For the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.”
These lines from the popular song, We three kings describe the role of the little lights: “O star of wonder, star of night, Star with royal beauty bright; West-ward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to thy perfect light.”
God manifests Himself to us constantly in different ways, always making use of things, persons and events that we can understand. These things serve as little lights that draw us and bring us to Him, the only perfect light. This is why we must be attentive to recognize and follow the little lights by which God manifests Himself to us. We must follow these lights to the very end no matter the cost.
God used the light that comes from the scriptures, prophets and law to draw King Herod and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to Himself. They knew where the Messiah was to be born, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet.” But they remained in their place, refusing to be drawn to Him. They were never transformed but got worse as Herod would later go on to slaughter innocent babies in his blind rage. Lastly, they remained without joy or peace, “King Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”
God also used the light of the star to draw the magi to Him. They understood what the star meant and they were ready to take on a journey to the new born king no matter the cost or the dangers involved in such a quest. They risked all just to have some moments of worship before the new born King, “We saw His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.” They were joyful, “They rejoiced when they saw the star.” And they were also transformed, becoming sensitive to God’s inner promptings, “They departed for their country by another way.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the solemnity of Epiphany reminds us that we are made for communion with God, to be united with Him and to worship Him. Because He has promised us that He would draw us to Himself when He is lifted up, (Cf. Jn 12:32) He never ceases to draw us to Himself in different ways using ordinary things that we can perceive and understand. It may be a desire to be better than what we are now, or seeing someone’s good example, or a word from the scriptures, or an experience of His love in the sacraments, or a moment of intimacy in prayer, or an attraction to the Blessed Virgin Mary or one of the saints. These are the little lights God uses to beckon us to Him.
But for us to recognize and respond to our own little epiphanies wherein God manifests Himself to us, we must have some basic dispositions.
Firstly, we must be ready to abandon our familiar idols and false gods. Those are the things that, though they may not be sinful in themselves, we believe that we just cannot do without them in this life. They are the things we live for and strive to attain more of in life. They are the things that we depend upon and run to for consolation. The magi left behind their own idols to come and search for the living God while Herod held on to the comfort of his palace. Our continued attachment to idols and our dependence on them blinds us to these divine manifestations in our lives.
Secondly, we must be ready to surrender to Him all that we are and have. We are control freaks who like to have things under our control. So, we surrender something to Him today and then take it back soon after. We are very much different from the magi who brought their gifts all the way from their place, refusing to give them to petty King Herod, offered them only to the infant King lying in a manger, and left their gifts there! Our irrevocable and complete surrender of all to God allows us to recognize and respond to His self-manifestations.
Thirdly, we must be open and ready to be transformed by God. Our union with God cannot leave us as we are. God truly loves us as we are but He will never leave us as we are. We cannot wait to be good enough to approach Him because we will never be good enough. The pagan magi were open to be transformed by Him. They showed their transformation by returning home by another way and by their full obedience to God’s inspiration and not king Herod’s wicked and dubious counsels.
Fourthly, we must be ready to accept others as equals in Christ. In the words of St. Paul, “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body; and copartners in the promise in Jesus Christ through the Gospel.” We all have this equal dignity in Christ because in Him we are all being drawn to the Father. Like St. Paul, “we continue our pursuit towards the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”(Phil 3:12) We cannot be looking down on others with an air of superiority and still recognize divine epiphanies in our lives.
Let us pause and search our hearts today. In Jesus Christ, God has made Himself available to us for the sake of unceasing worship and union. What still prevents us from drawing closer to Him to Him? Look at Him lifted up on the Cross and let His promise ring deep in our hearts today, “I will never reject any one who comes to me.” (Jn 6:37)
The Eucharist is the supreme manifestation of God on earth today, God continuously present and drawing us to Himself, even in the darkest moments of our lives. He wants to transform us and fill us with His own joy. Are we going to let go of our idols, bring ourselves and our gifts to Him, allow Him to transform us, and treat each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord? Or are we going to make excuses for not coming to Him or act like king Herod and ask others to search for Him on our behalf instead?
If we still refuse to draw near to Him after all His invitations, we will not be transformed by Him and we will not have any deep authentic joy. He will also permit us to experience moments of painful inner crisis to bring us to Him in humility if we fail to respond to His gentler promptings and invitations. This may explain the many fearful and troubled hearts of many in our times when many ignore this divine summons.
A truly transforming and joyful union awaits us if only we allow ourselves to be drawn by many little lights to Jesus Christ, the Perfect Light, who never ceases to manifest Himself to us.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!