As we enter 2016, and we reflect upon our past and plan for the future, I decided to share my homily with you from Epiphany Sunday which fell on January 3. The story of the Magi (Wise Men) is our story at Verbum Dei as we try to follow the light in the midst of so much darkness in the world today. We follow the light because we are a people of faith – a hopeful people. Happy New Year.
We have done a good job of making the Magi story suitable for Greeting Cards, yet the real story is much more personal. It is a story of our lives. Is there any doubt that we, like the magi, are on a journey?
The Gospel of Jesus always challenges us to expand our horizons:
Last Sunday, at the Feast of the Holy Family, we were challenged to broaden our understanding of “family” to include the wide variety of loving and committed relationships that exist in our society today. Today, Epiphany Sunday, the Magi challenge us to broaden our understanding of the definition of “God’s people”. With whom do we travel on our life’s journey? Where is God leading us as individuals and as a people?
Along with the Journey motif, Light and Darkness are themes that appear often in the Scripture: In today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah (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.” In the Gospel from Matthew (2:1-12) – The Magi follow the light of a star that stopped over the place where the child of light lay. The Magi did not go back to Herod but took another way home because Herod represented the darkness that would try to snuff out the light. The interplay of themes of light and darkness is continuous in the words of Scripture, and in our life’s journey. Often we experience moments of light that tell of God’s guiding presence. Just as often, we experience moments of darkness that try to snuff out a personal God from our lives.
The message of the Magi takes on new meaning for us in the context of world events:
Matthew makes it clear that the Messiah has not been born solely for the sake of the Chosen People. The Gentiles – the Pagans – were seen as part of God’s People as well.
Paul states it well in the Letter to the Ephesians (3:2-6), “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body”
What Paul describes theologically, Matthew tells in story form: The first people who come to recognize and worship Jesus are not his own people—not the Jewish King, Herod; not the learned chief priests and scribes who can accurately quote the Scriptures and have all the requisite knowledge but none of the necessary faith.
God sent the Wise Men a message that caused them to ride camels half way across the known world. These foreigners, these outsiders, followed God’s light through the darkness to arrive at Salvation.
In the midst of the darkness that can obscure our world, we have come to see that God’s light can shine through all our fellow travelers, whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims (Sunni or Shiite), or Undocumented Workers – they are our brothers and sisters.
In our journey through life, God’s light shines through the darkness to show us a new way of seeing the human community: Can we respond as the Magi did to this new light and see Jesus in the face of the innocent child and the helpless travelers? Can we see the light in the faces of all of God’s people here in South Los Angeles, in the United States and around the world?
Let us open our hearts to see God’s light shine through the darkness that we ourselves often create in this world.
Let us follow the light!