Is 60:1-6; Ps 72:1-13; Eph 3:2-6; Mt 2:1-12
(Scriptures included after homily)
Happy New Year, everyone. Someone once told me that New Year’s is like a mirror on an airplane. It causes us to reflect on where we’ve been and to realize how fast time flies by. So let’s begin today with a reflection.
Just two weeks ago today, on the 4th Sunday of Advent, we began our final preparations for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And we heard about Mary’s visit with her cousin Elizabeth before the births of Jesus and John the Baptist.
– And Christmas came and went –
If we look back in reflection, we might ask ourselves:
“Were our empty hearts hung on the fireplace for Jesus to fill with His love and hope,
or was it just our socks?”
“Did we fill our souls at that banquet of the Christmas Mass,
or just our tummies at Christmas dinner?”
“Have we changed for the better in any way, today, these two weeks later?
Then, just one week ago, we celebrated the special Holiness of Jesus’ Family; and the special holiness of our own families. We discovered that, together as family, with Jesus in our lives, we can endure: desert journeys, Inns with no rooms, work with no pay, and even persecution, just as the Holy Family did.
– And the dawn of a New Year came and went –
And if we reflect again, we might ask:
“Is Christmas now all packed away in a box and forgotten for another year,
or can we still find Christmas alive in our hearts?”
“Can we keep the love and hope of Jesus thriving within us every day,
despite the hardships?”
You see when we reflect on the past, we come to realize that time really does fly by.
And then we might wonder if we actually made the best of that time.
And then today we heard the story of three Kings. If we look close enough, we just might find one, or all of them, living within and ruling us.
The first King was Herod. As the Roman ruler of Jerusalem, Herod was a great builder. He built cities and amphitheaters, and even the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
And yet, as hard as Herod tried to get the Jewish people to like him, nothing mattered more to Herod than his own pride and ambition. Any threat to that pride or his position, whether real or just perceived by Herod, was dealt with by death; from the murder of his own wife and sons, to the crucifixion of the Jewish zealots and the slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus. Herod was ruthless and bitter, because everything in his life was centered on himself.
He was a sad and lost king, and one, we pray, the likes of whom will never rule us.
The second King, or set of Kings, in today’s story, were the Magi. These great astrologers were the Indiana Jones’ of the first century BC. To start with, they were very wise. And even though they were not Jewish, they knew the Scriptures inside and out. They knew the signs of nature. They knew the trees and the birds, the deserts and the stars. And tying them all together, with the help of the Holy Spirit, these Magi discovered a treasure that was so great, that nothing could keep them from searching it out; not the long desert journey, nor the highway bandits. Not even a ruthless and bitter King could stop them.
You see, the wisdom and perceptiveness of these Magi led them to believe that if they could find this Jewish Messiah, He had the potential to change, not only their lives, but the lives of their families, and everyone they knew back home. For unlike Herod, the Magi were not self-centered, but instead, they had a genuine concern for other people.
And knowing that, we can now understand why the Gentile – Magi brought gifts for the Jewish – Savior. And those gifts were no “stocking stuffers” either! As a matter of fact, we just might call the gifts themselves, “the Epiphany of the Lord.” For those gifts reveal to us the very Mystery of the Incarnation itself: God has become man.
You see, the gift of Gold represents the Royalty of Jesus, His kingship, His wisdom, shining like gold in our lives.
And the gift of Frankincense represents the Divinity of Jesus; the One whom we worship and adore, with the burning incense of our prayers and love.
That third gift of Myrrh represents the Humanity of Jesus, a person just like us, who would live, and suffer, and die. And with that fragrant myrrh, we too can offer all of our sufferings for the love of Jesus, and for one another.
Yes, these Magi were quite extraordinary. They were wise, adventurous, sensitive and obedient; an obedience to God’s Will that eventually, even saved their lives. And to say that our lives are, in part, ruled by characteristics like theirs, would certainly be admirable.
The third King of course, is Jesus himself. Yet, who are we to call this Jewish Messiah ‘our King’? St. Paul answered that question for us in his letter to the Ephesians, when he said: “the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus” Eph 3:2-6
You see, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior and King, offered His entire human life for all
of us, both Jews and Gentiles alike. And He did that not out of selfish pride or ambition, like Herod, and not out of wisdom, adventure or sensitivity, like the Magi; but Jesus offered His life, out of His unsurpassable love for us, in order to both: reunite us with God our Father, and to redeem us from our sinful nature.
It is this redemptive suffering and love, that we remember every week, here at this Eucharistic Table, where Jesus gives Himself to us, and we to Him. And that is the ultimate, the very best Christmas and New Years gift, of ALL time!
Scripture Readings for the Mass of 01-06-13
The Epiphany of the Lord, C
First Reading: Is 60:1-6
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13.
R Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
O God, with your judgment endow the king, and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment.
Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him. He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save.
Second Reading: Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6
Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Gospel: Mt 2:1-12
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.