Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord, 2021
Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 34 segundos
No One is An Outsider
To appreciate the celebration of the Epiphany, it is important that we go back to the time of Jesus. There were two worlds: the world of the insiders, the Israelites and the world of the outsiders, the Gentiles, or “the nations”. These worlds had tall walls that separated them. The Israelites would literally have nothing to do with the Gentiles. For them, the Gentiles were not a people of the covenant. They worshipped pagan gods, and as such their lives were corrupt and unholy. They disdained the Gentiles. One can only imagine how the Gentiles took all this.
It is against this background that Epiphany, the appearance of God to the Gentiles was a shift in paradigm. God in His Epiphany was making a statement. ‘No one is outside of God’s love’ as Fyodor Dostoevsky argues in his book Idiot. We are all loved by God, and God’s love transforms us. God’s love transforms the one who was once an outsider into an insider. It is the love that reaches out, finds the rejects of society and life, and brings them in. It is the love that sets us on a journey to find Him who has already found us and then worship Him with gifts.
But there is another detail to the Epiphany story. It is the fact that the Magi were looking into the sky, discerning God’s will. They did not close in on themselves and feel condemned because of the way they were treated, they stepped out of their own world and gazed at the stars. They were looking for the signs of God. Perhaps they were discerning God’s purpose and plan for them as a people who were not of the covenant. This, we can say, is Matthew’s way of saying the Gentiles prayed. By discerning, they were raising their hearts and minds to God.
And from the Gospel reading today (Matthew 2:1-12), one can reasonable say that Gentiles were consistent in gazing at the stars. In other words, they prayed constantly, and God did answer their prayers at the appointed time. Epiphany becomes then God’s answer to prayer. For it was in prayer that they recognised the difference in the stars. They knew the star that announced the birth of the King of Israel was not an ordinary star. They could pick the difference because they were praying, paying attention to the working of God’s grace and spirit.
So the first lesson of Epiphany is a spiritual awakening. It is the dawn of light. The light that reveals to us that God hears the prayer of outsiders. That God is also Father to outsiders. Who are the outsiders today? Perhaps we can immediately point to the divorced and the re-married, those who because of their sexual orientations do not feel welcome in the Church, those whose weaknesses and sins make them feel unworthy of participating in the Christian community, and those we have labelled as no good because of their fallings. These outsiders are suffering.
But it not enough to be or feel as an outsider. Being an outsider does not automatically mean one is saved or one has rights to the saving action of God. We have to step out of our world, and constantly gaze at the stars; bring our real selves to the real God who is with us, although not always visible but whose signs in the world are meant to lead us to where He wants to be found. This is the message the Magi communicate as they followed the star. They found the Christ child, lying in the manger. And they worshipped Him with gifts from their own world.
Notice, they worshipped God with gifts from their own world. Gifts that expressed their faith and desires. Gold, because they were longing for the true King. The King who will help them to actualise God’s plans for them. Frankincense speaks of the divinity of this King. In Him they will encounter divinity and be divinised. Myrrh signifying the humanity and mortality of the God man. This King will be like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest… to make expiation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17).
As they worshipped, they were transformed. They went back to their country through another route. According to Archbishop Fulton Sheen, this means a new life. For God became man not to make us nice, but to make us a new creation. This is the effect of worship. It turns our lives and values upside down and re-orients us. By giving that which is of value to us, or that which reflects our world and story, we open ourselves up to the transforming effect of God’s love. And begin to see others not as outsiders, but as brothers and sisters of the same Father.