Sunday, January 04, 2009

Feast of the Epiphany - homily

In talking with families in the parish, it sounds like Christmas Day was a day of great joy and excitement. Hearing stories about kids waking up bright and early, can’t wait to get downstairs…reminds me of my childhood. I used to be the first one up on Christmas morning and go to the top of the stairs, waiting for my brother, sister, and parents so that we could go downstairs. I’d be like, “c’mon! Let’s go!” They would finally come down the hallway and we would go downstairs.

We’d head to the crèche scene and celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. Now, I wish that I could say that this was the primary reason that I was so excited and the first one up and at the top of the stairs first. There were several other reasons in the living room – packaged very nicely, some long, some bulky. But, celebrating Jesus’ birth was certainly up there – I did get excited about that. It was a day of great excitement and joy for my family as it is for some many here.

Unfortunately, not everyone rejoices at Christmas, the birth of Christ. We hear in today’s Gospel that King Herod and all of the people of Jerusalem were “greatly troubled” at hearing the news of a newborn king. We can understand why Herod would be troubled. He was a king who had great power and he didn’t want to lose his power. He didn’t want a rival king, and certainly not a Jewish king. He is troubled. He is worried. He is afraid. I was reading a commentary by St. Augustine on this passage. He gave a great quote: “great power is subject to great fear”. He also gives an image of the leaves at the top of a tree. They blow with even the lightest winds. And so, those who are high up with power or authority or sensitive to any rumor. King Herod is troubled by the news he hears about a newborn king.

We can understand why Herod is worried, but why are the people of Jerusalem greatly troubled by hearing the news of a newborn king? After all, they were waiting for a king, for a messiah. I think it speaks of the culture; Jesus was born into a wicked culture. Another saint wrote, “the wicked can never rejoice in the coming of the just”. It was a wicked culture then, and it’s a wicked culture now. We see people today who are greatly troubled by Christmas, even in our own town. There was a group who paid for ads on metro buses just before Christmas that said, “why believe in a god? Be good for goodness sake”. Also, out west, two groups demonstrated or made signs next to Nativity scenes which slammed faith in God, particularly Christianity. Our culture is becoming more and more anti-Christian.

Jesus had an uphill battle from the start. Just out of the womb, people were greatly troubled with him. Those who were greatly troubled by his birth were also greatly troubled by his life. This is what ultimately led to his death. Those who are greatly troubled by the life of Christ are also greatly troubled by the life of a Christian who is faithful to Jesus Christ.

Finally, we see some characters in the story who are excited and joyful with the birth of Christ: the three wise men. They are “overjoyed” at the events that unfold in front of them. They are overjoyed at seeing the star and then the baby Jesus. They get on their knees and worship their God. They offer him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

My brothers and sisters, let us be like the three wise men, especially when we come to Mass. There are some around us who are greatly troubled with coming to Mass. Let us be overjoyed at what happens here – that we see the little Jesus in the form of bread and wine. We get down on our knees and worship our God. And, let us offer him gifts that are more valuable than gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Let us offer him the gift of our hearts.


At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first present my youngest opened this Christmas was her own crèche- complete with hay and a newly born baby Jesus! It was so hard keeping her from taking everything out of our family crèche, one I've had a long time, and I worried about losing all the pieces. So, I gave her one of her own, unbreakable, but complete and detailed. Honestly, she played with this gift the entire day of Christmas.

At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This part of the story of Jesus has always captured the attention of my children, “You mean Herod killed CHILDREN?!! What a mean man!” I remember thinking the same as a child, but as I grew, I became more interested in the Magi- who were they and where did they come from? Why have we come to talk about there being three Magi? How old Jesus was when the Magi came to him? Maybe he was older than a newborn in the manger or why the order for the slaughter of that all children under two?

Sometimes, I tend to wonder about what the Bible doesn’t say instead of focusing on what it does. So this week, I’m focusing on what’s there, and I find it timely for myself personally but also pertinent to what is happening all over the world- the fight against yielding control.

Herod wanted to keep all he had and not sacrifice anything to anyone, especially a poor child. He was unyielding, and we are all a little bit like that. I’ve been a lot like that at different points in time! How many of us want to give up control of our lives? Herod didn’t want to give away his possessions, and if we are honest, we don’t like to give what we have either. Then, we learn about the Magi bringing gifts fit for the King. I believe there is a little wise man in us too. I have seen that in many. I have experienced the generosity of the Magi in several. So I guess we get to choose. We can decide to be our own rulers or accept Christ as King. Do we want to live as Herod or as a wise man? To me, this passage is about faith in a nutshell.

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay- again to the pleasures of bringing the young ones to Mass. Fr. Greg invited all the kids up to the altar space for the homily. It’s great when he does that, and I thought my 3 yr old could go this time. I haven’t allowed her to go in the past. Questions were directed to the kids, and I hear her calling out, “I have a Christmas tree!” I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her. I told me older daughter to go up and sit with her, but she was like- “Yeah, right!” Then Fr. Greg does a, “Wow!” and he’s looking in the direction to where I heard the Christmas tree voice coming from. I couldn’t see, but I knew- she hit her sister! For what didn’t happen in the terrible two’s, she’s making up for in the three’s. My apologies, Fr. Greg- I should have thought about letting her come up. I know you’re used to the distractions with all the kids, and you handle it well. I don’t handle the distractions well at all when they come from my own children.

Btw- we discussed her hitting her sister when we got home. I suggested that she needed to apologize, but she didn’t agree. I then insisted that she apologize but she refused. She had to sit on the kitchen chair until she was ready to say she was sorry (mind you, this was a repeated offense). She selected to sit on that chair for a half an hour before relenting. If I could only figure out how to direct that tenacity, I’d be in great shape! Man, it’s only 1:30 and I’m tired!

At 5:18 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Anon 1:26

It could be worse! I have to admonish my daughter not to Squish or Tackle Fr G after Mass. (A couple of weeks ago she nearly knocked him over! I shudder to think of the penance one would have to do to make satisfaction for THAT.)

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I think I got you all beat. My 4 year old son called poor Fr. Greg a doofus at the 3:30 Christmas Eve Mass!

At 1:54 PM, Blogger fran said...

Pertinent to the discussion on bringing the "little ones" to church...

A study, as reported on WGTS 91.9 fm (Christian radio) earlier this week, showed that children who attend church services on a regular basis, have fewer incidences of acting out at home and at school.

No word, however, on whether church attendance results in fewer incidences of acting out in church!
Maybe that will be determined in a future study. :)

At 1:59 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

I think we could colletively fill a book with acting-out-in-church stories. My submissions would include:

The Performance of "If You're Happy and You Know It" between Stations 12 and 13

The Retrieval of a Crayon via Commando Crawl (obviously not at SAA, although I don't know that the impediments of kneelers would have stopped her)

The Balcony Rail as Jungle Gym

The Announcement that a Celebrant is Not Supposed to Be There

The Criticism of the Unsatisfactory Blessing

The Unauthorized Partaking of Communion


I see that my Verification Word to make a submission is "hyper." How appropriate...

At 5:21 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

Nick- not your sweet little boy! How funny. We opted for the 8:00 (p.m.) Christmas Eve Mass- not too smart! It was dark out, and my youngest thought maybe the bells during the liturgy were Santa's and we needed to go home. She also had it in her brain that Fr. Greg was giving out candy canes instead of shaking hands after Mass (and was not happy to find no candy). No, not samrt- 8:00 Christmas Eve is the time for sugarplums dancing in heads, not trying to keep little people from squirming and squealing. No "doofus" though- you're right, you win!


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