4 January 2015
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
All of us have in some way been touched and thereby drawn to God. In most circumstances we can say that we first hear of God and are taught about him through the upbringing received from our parents who are always the first teachers and examples of faith to their children. Yet there are other ways that we arrive at a greater knowledge of God, such as through the preaching of the Church, catechetical instruction, the receiving of the holy sacraments, as well as through prayer and a personal discovery or experience of God in our lives. It might come simply through an encounter with another person who is a true believer in God. The ways to God are diverse and each of us has more than likely had a different experience in our lives. However, the common factor in these paths to God is that they all lead to Christ the Lord who during his time on earth was the manifestation of God amongst mankind.
It is exactly this manifestation of Christ that we are celebrating today on the feast of the Epiphany. In this celebration we are recalling the fact that Christ the Lord has been revealed as the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world.
Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel. The word Messiah means the “anointed one” of God, which was later translated into Greek as the Christ. “It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest and prophet” (CCC 436). Through his prophets, God promised the chosen people of Israel that he would send a Messiah, who as was revealed to Joseph by the angel of the Lord in a dream was to save his people from their sins (Mt 1:21). Unfortunately, they did not recognize him as the Messiah or accept him when he arrived. This is tragically explained in the gospel where Herod and the priests of his time knew that the Messiah was to come yet they did not search for him. So many even today do not recognize him as the Messiah. Some would prefer a mighty messiah and that God be full of political and social power, who would go about putting all the ills of the world into order, punishing the bad and rewarding the good, or they would simply want someone who would not disturb their lives so much and demand the conversion of their hearts and evil ways.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He openly spoke of his sonship and constantly referred to God as his Father in heaven. Those that followed him also slowly came to this discovery. Simon Peter himself, the first amongst the apostles, confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt 16:16-17). “From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine sonship will be the centre of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation” (CCC 442). Later on, the apostles and disciples became the eyewitnesses of the many miracles Jesus performed and they encountered him upon his resurrection from the dead. Through that miraculous event they were confirmed in their faith in the divinity of Christ and later on received the Holy Spirit. Jesus therefore is not just a historical person, not only a man, but God in person, and Son of the Father.
Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world. “It is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the ‘name which is above every other name’. The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name” (CCC 434). No other person in history has had such a positive influence in the world and in the lives of millions of people as this humble man of Nazareth. No other human has been able to influence and turn multitudes of people towards goodness as has Christ. No one has shown himself to be capable of converting hardened criminals and poor sinners as has Jesus Christ. We have many stars in the world of cinema and the arts, in sports and politics. There is a tendency in the media to glorify their achievements and put them on a pedestal as an example to others. However, all these so-called stars and superstars at some point in their lives lose their fame and popularity, and eventually succumb to the fate of all humans, of old age, sickness and death. Yet Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever (Heb 13:8), for he is God and therefore is capable of making us into sons and daughters of the Father and thereby extraordinary humans.
Jesus Christ is capable of changing people’s lives even today. He is still an inspiration to millions who seek justice and purpose in life; he is a challenge to those who have encountered him and must examine their behaviour in the light of God’s divine presence; and he is the life-strength of those who believe in him and follow him in the path of humility, obedience and service. During his mission on earth he was friend to all. He spent time with the tax collectors, prostitutes and the public sinners of his time, seeking and converting their hearts through his merciful love. They were amazed by his personality and inner strength, and slowly discovered that he was not only a man but also God. By manifesting God’s love to them, their lives were changed forever and many willingly followed him and some also gave up their lives out of love towards him.
Christ is continually being revealed or manifested in the world through those who believe in him and seek to follow him. He can change our lives too. By coming to Christ with faith we become new people. It is not enough to know the many facts regarding Christianity in order to be a Christian, but what is required is faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Son of God and Saviour of the world, and to live our lives according to his example of sacrificial love.
We who seek Christ with faith, just like the three wise men of the East who journeyed from lands far away for the new born King, are now called to spread the Good News of salvation in Christ, God’s forgiveness and his love which has been revealed to the world in Jesus Christ. As true followers of Christ, we are to be living witnesses of God in our cynical world. God is best manifested through our love towards others, forgiveness generously given to those who need it most and constant hope to those in search of purpose or meaning in life.