Epiphany Sunday of the
A Homily - Cycle B - 2011-2012
by Rev. Luke Dundon
First Reading Isaiah 60:1-6
Responsorial Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Second Reading Ephesians 3:2-3a
Gospel Matthew 2:1-12
Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
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 prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of god, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
It’s kind of amazing, if you think about it. I couldn’t have just been an accident. We live on a planet, with a clear sky – the other planets don’t really have that! We live on a star that’s not clustered together with other stars – like so many other stars! We live in a galaxy that’s not coated with dust everywhere, like so many other galaxies, and we are oriented in a position that is pointed outward, so we can see the billions of other galaxies that are out there. More than twenty five billion, more than 100 billion stars per galaxy … it’s kind of amazing … all this discovered, because we are able to, we’re perfectly positioned --- purely coincidence?
I think not, for people have been watching the stars for thousands of years, but only once do we hear of a story where strangers come from a strange land, to pay homage to a king, all by the guidance of a star! Sailors have used the stars already present in the skies to orient themselves in general directions, but never before has a star arisen which points the way specifically and directly to a King, a newborn baby King. The shepherds received hosts of heavenly angels singing and glorifying God, but the three wise men only received a quiet, luminescent star; however, both were given what was needed to find the Christ Child, their ultimate goal. Purely coincidence?
Again, however, being a former scientist and astronomer, I will have to be a skeptic here – my own work with planetary science, comets and asteroids, has shown how difficult it is to find anything, even when, like the shepherds and wise men, we have clues for finding something. Years ago, we had many clues that a 9th “Planet” existed, but it took a long time to discover Pluto! Here, three men had one star to go on, without a magnetic compass, without mapquest, without GPS, and they found the King they were looking for. How does such a thing happen? How in the world did three foreigners, likely living about 1,000 miles away, find a baby living with his parents? Talk about a needle in a haystack! Is it really a coincidence?
But, I would argue that there is no way in the world that this could have happened … I would argue that there is no number of coincidences in the world that could have allowed such men to visit the Christ child without having been attacked by thieves, or jailed by crazy King Herod, or given up on their quest to find a newborn baby! There must be more than meets the eye here… The angels didn’t just appear by accident, and nor did this amazing and unique star. God’s creation was cooperating according to His almighty plan, the star existed at that point in space and time according to His all-powerful intention. And the wise men cooperated as well. And they found the Christ Child, for they responded to the initiative that was provided by the Lord, the invitation to come and find Him. The Wise Men were seeking a newborn King, they weren’t sure whom, but after such a long journey, they were overjoyed (another translation, they literally shouted with joy!) to find Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph! Their search for God produced a wondrous discovery, and amazing discovery, the discovery that He had been searching for them as well! The journey wasn’t simply a quest to find a planet, but a pilgrimage to find a person, a person who was waiting for them!
And so the love story repeats itself – whenever I tell strangers that I’m a priest, I often hear, “ah yes, I’m very spiritual myself, I like searching for God.” While that’s a good start, without His help, we wouldn’t get any farther than that, but today’s readings show that He has come, for all of us, Jews and Gentiles alike, and He’s been helping us all along. The wise men were searching for God as well, and when they discovered Him, they didn’t just find some abstract ideology, but a little babe, who was personally there for each of them; who challenged them to journey, because he called them.
Our Lord searches each of us out, and waits for us to respond – did He give us a star to follow? No angels, no star, but something even better,… for the angels returned to Heaven, the star apparently faded, but our light remains bright, our light never goes out, the light of Faith which is given to us through His Church, and a red candle light that continually reminds us of His presence in the many tabernacles around the world – for He has come to be Emmanuel, God-with-us, and that discovery never grows old, a discovery which is found in His Church, every time we come back to Mass… We rejoice with the wise men today, for we have been found by Him, even with our weaknesses, faults and failings, for the Christmas Story didn’t happen “by accident,” God’s story of love includes each of us, by name, and that changes everything – and so, like the wise men, we will also return home by a different route, we will also leave Mass in a different way than when we entered, for we have “seen the light,” and the Light has found us – and that is no coincidence!