The Epiphany of the Lord

Readings: Is 60:1-6; Ps 72:-12,7-8, 10-13; Eph 3:2-3,5-6; Mt 2:1-12

COME LET US ADORE HIM!

Have you ever noticed how life doesn’t always turn out the way we carefully plan it to? Sometimes circumstances don’t always follow our plans. Often, it seems that life is nothing more than a series of shattered dreams. The Wise Men had spent the last two years following a star. To follow this star, they left home and family behind. They left their country and were now pilgrims. Along the way, they no doubt had to face perils and obstacles. They even found themselves in the presence of a king. Then, when they finally arrive at their destination, they find the star they have been following stops over a humble house, instead of a royal palace.

These men probably dreamed of finding the Messiah in a palace, this probably explains their going to Herod’s first! I’m sure they at least expected luxury, and a nice home. What they found did not match their dreams. They found the King of Kings, in the home of a peasant; probably nothing more than a shack! No doubt their dreams were shattered. Yet, amid the rubble of their torn and twisted dreams, these wise men found some things in that humble setting that changed their lives. Sometimes life has a way of shattering our dreams and destroying our hopes and plans. I want to tell you what to do when you are following a star and find a shack.

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer/contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.

The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter agreed, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”

What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

So it is with us. We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realized, we would have done it differently.

Think of yourself as the carpenter. Think about your house. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Build wisely. It is the only life you will ever build. Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity. The plaque on the wall says, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.”

Who could say it more clearly? Your life today is the result of your attitudes and choices in the past. Your life tomorrow will be the result of your attitudes and the choices you make today. God should be our Hope. If God does not bless the house, in vain do the builders labour.

  • Each Day is a Gift:A 92-year-old delicate but well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably coifed and his face shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.As he manoeuvred his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.

    ‘I love it,’ he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

    ‘Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.’

    ‘That doesn’t have anything to do with it,’ he replied.

    ‘Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged … it’s how I arrange my mind.

    I already decided to love it. ‘It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.’

    ‘Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away. Just for this time in my life.’

    ‘Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you’ve put in.’

    ‘So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.’

    Remember these five simple rules to be happy:

    1. Free your heart from hatred

    2. Free your mind from worries

    3. Surrender to God

    4. Live simply

    5. Give more

    6. Expect less

(First Reading- Is: 60: 1-6), prophesying that the nations of the world will travel to the Holy City following a brilliant light and will bring gold and incense to contribute to the worship of God. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72), includes a verse about kings coming from foreign lands to pay homage to a just king in Israel. Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus (today’s Second Reading Eph 3: 2-3a, 5-6;), expresses God’s secret plan in clear terms: “the Gentiles are co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring him their hearts. The adoration of the Magi fulfills the oracle of Isaiah. It reminds us that if God permitted the Magi – foreigners and pagans – to recognize and give Jesus proper respect as the King of Jews, we should know that there is nothing in our sinful lives that would keep God from bringing us to Jesus. There were three groups of people who reacted to the Epiphany of Christ’s birth. The first group headed by King Herod tried to eliminate him, the second group, priests and scribes, ignored him and the third group, represented by the shepherds and the Magi, came to adore him.

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany: The visit of the Magi to Jesus. Legend has given to these men the names of Casper, Melchior and Balthazar.

Melchior was said to be an older man, gray haired, and with a long beard. It is said that he brought the gold.

Casper was young and beardless, ruddy in countenance, and it is said that he brought the gift of frankincense.

Balthazar was dark-complexioned, and it is said he brought the gift of myrrh.

I’d like to begin my reflection with a quote from Blaise Pascal. He was a seventeenth century scientist who – among other things – invented a calculating machine that became the forerunner for the modern computer. Those of us who pull out our hair (what little is left) in front of computers can forgive Pascal for that. What interests me on today’s Feast is this quote:

“There are only three types of people; those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him. The first are rational and happy; the second unhappy and rational, and the third foolish and unhappy.”*

We see those three types represented in our readings at Christmas time. Among the the foolish and unhappy is King Herod. He pretends to seek God, but his real concern is to defend his power – and his pleasures. But he was far from happy. Tortured by suspicions, he murdered members of his own family, including his wife and two sons. This caused the Emperor Augustus to remark, ““I would rather be Herod’s pig (hus) than his son (huios).” Herod – in an extreme way – represents the class of people who neither seek nor find God.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who have found God and serve him. Two obvious examples are St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary. We can also include the shepherds in that happy group.

In the middle are the Magi. They represent all honest seekers. From the Greek “magoi” we get our English word “magic” or “magician.” They were not illusionists like modern magicians, but rather they studied the heavens and tried to figure out the relationship between the stars and what happens on earth. They were part astonomer and past astrologer. The Magi were also called “Wise Men” because they followed celestials signs that led them to Christ.

We do not know what those signs were. The Chicago Planetarium has a famous presentation on the Star of Bethlehem. Recreating the heavens at the time of Christ birth – and speculate that the “star” may have been a comet, a conjunction of planets or some other astronomical event. Whatever it was, it led the Magi to Jerusalem, then to Bethlehem. When they arrived at the dwelling of Joseph and Mary, they stopped being seekers. They worshipped the child, that is, they acknowledged him as God. And they gave gifts that represented Jesus’ kingship, his divinity and his priesthood.

Now, I mentioned that the Magi were astologers. Astrology can lead a person to God. A recent poll revealed that 34% of people around the globe believe in astrology. It is better to believe in astology than, for example, to believe in mindless evolution. Still, for a Christian, astrology can have no ultimate place. You will notice that when the Magi found Christ, they no longer looked to the stars. God guided them in a more direct way.

I would like to quote from the Catechism.** It clearly states that astrology is a form of idolatry – a sin against the first commandment: I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me. God is a jealous God. In his case the jealousy is proper and logical. He does have a complete and total claim on us. He created us and redeemed us.

So, while astrology may have some place for those seeking God, it has no place for those who – like the Magi – have now found God and serve him. Remember the three types of people:

“Those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him.”

I hope no one out there is in the category of Herod, who neither seeks nor finds God. Those who honestly seek God, will find him. But best, like Joseph and Mary, like the shepherds and the Magi, the Wise Men: to find God and serve him.

Bottom line: On Epiphany Sunday we see the three types of people: Those who have found God and serve him; those who have not found God and seek him, and those who live not seeking, or finding him. Astrology can have some place for the second type, but not the first.

WISE MEN RECOGNIZE GOD IN THE SHACKS OF LIFE

A. It wasn’t what they had expected, but they came to worship and worship they did! They saw God in that shack! They saw God in Jesus!

B. When life shatters your dreams, your first duty is to find the Lord. If you are his, then nothing can happen in your life that he has not allowed. (example. Job 1:1-2).

C. When your star leads you into a shack, remember that God is doing one of three things:

1. Correction – “Because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son”. Heb. 12:6; Rev. 3:19

2. Instruction – He is trying to reveal himself to you in a new way, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” Rom. 8:28. (Israel – Had they never faced anything that they did, they would never have known that he could see them through!) (The men of Samaria – They believe because of what they had experienced – John 4:42)

3. Perfection – He is trying to mold you into his image. He desires a vessel that he can use and has chosen you as that vessel and he is getting you ready for service! (Moses could not have led Israel, until he first led those sheep in the desert!)

D. When your star leads to a shack – Look for God, he will be there!

WISE MEN RECEIVE GRACE IN THE SHACKS OF LIFE

A. The context. While they were there, the experienced two kinds of grace. First, they experienced saving grace. Secondly, they experienced sustaining grace. God saved them and then he directed their lives.

B. When our star leads to a shack, we can expect to find God’s grace in that hour of need – 2 Cor. 12:9. Life is seldom fair, nor what we think it ought to be. But, even when life lets us down, we can be sure that God never will! (Heb. 13:5; Heb. 4:15)

C. When our star leads to a shack, we can expect God to provide leadership and guidance for us. (John 16:13)

D. As God’s children, we are never alone and never without recourse. He will always make a way for us and will support us through the shacks of life!

Have you ever been following a star and wound up in a shack, surrounded by the debris of your shattered hopes and dreams? Maybe you are there right now. If so, let me tell you that Jesus is still in your shack. He is working on your behalf and is concerned about your need. Why don’t you do what the wise men did, fall down before him and worship him.

In the modern world ……..

The Bible (Word of God) is the star

The Gift – is ourselves

God shows the way – The Eucharist, His church

The modern Herod – Worldly attractions that take you away from the Lord – Beware!!!

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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