The Epiphany of the Lord 2023 – Homily

The Epiphany of the Lord
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13 (11)
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
January 8, 2023

Today we celebrate another important part of the Christmas story, the Magi coming from the east seeking the newborn king of the Jews.  We call it the Epiphany of the Lord.

They find Jesus in Bethlehem just as the prophecies foretold.  They come to do him homage, homage that is due to Jesus as our king. 

They stopped in Jerusalem and spoke with King Herod.  When Herod heard that a new king of the Jews was born, “he was greatly troubled and all Jerusalem with him.”  Herod was “greatly troubled” because a new king would be a threat to his power.  The rest of Jerusalem, well I suppose they were “greatly troubled” because perhaps they knew they had not been living as they should and if the Messiah had indeed come they would have to change their ways.

Either way Herod certainly didn’t see Jesus’ birth as the gift that it is.  Herod lied to the magi, “When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”  Herod had no interest in giving homage to Jesus.  He wanted to kill him.

I already mentioned how Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem fulfilled prophecies about the long-awaited Messiah.  The magi are the fulfillment of Psalm 72 saying “All nations say pay him homage.”  The magi, who are from foreign nations, give homage as they prostrated themselves before Jesus.  We give homage to Jesus when we genuflect before him in the Tabernacle and bow to him before receiving him in Communion.

Psalm 72 also speaks of the kings who will bring gifts and tribute to the Messiah.  Isaiah speaks of those bringing gifts of gold and frankincense.  Prophecies are fulfilled as the magi “opened their treasure and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” 

At Christmas I spoke of the gifts that Jesus gives us with the greatest gift being the Eucharist as his Body and Blood, and including the sacrifice of his life that Jesus offers for us on the Cross, and the gift of eternal life. 

What Jesus offers us is priceless in a time when darkness covers the earth.”  It brings us great joy.  From the great joy we receive, our “hearts should throb and overflow,” and nations shall walk in our light as we shine with radiance from the joy of Jesus.

How do we respond to the gifts that Jesus gives us?

The magi gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  These would have been valuable gifts of monetary value but they symbolize much more.  The gold signifies his kingship.  The frankincense symbolizes his divinity and the myrrh his death and his humanity.

Now, the magi came looking for the newborn king of the Jews.  As such, they probably had “tribute” they brought that they planned to give him.  Were the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh gifts of tribute because of his kingship, given from sense of obligation, or were they gifts of joy and gratitude.

They prostrated themselves before Jesus.  “Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts.”  As I read the phrase “opened their treasures” this week I couldn’t help but think this was not a matter of obligation for them.  They were filled with joy and responded generously with gifts.

What is your response to what Jesus has given you?  Do you give to God out of mere obligation or are you motivated by gratitude for what God has given you?

Perhaps you give financially to our parish as part of your gift.  Whatever you give as our collections have fallen is greatly appreciated.  Do you give in appreciation?  Do you ever think about how much you give?  Some people go years simply giving the same amount.  Do you think about your giving?  You can’t give more than you have.  I just invite you to think about it as you give to charity as you feel called.

Perhaps you give of your time and talent.  Maybe you volunteer in our parish in a ministry or service.  It might be volunteering at the Community Table.  It might be helping with the office with collections or stuffing envelopes.  It might be reading or singing or helping in another way.  Maybe you volunteer in the community in a way that is a corporal work of mercy like helping people have a good home with Habitat for Humanity.  However you volunteer your time and talent, do you do it out of obligation or a desire to look good or do you do it in gratitude for what God has given you?

God appreciates when you give of your time, talent, and treasure to help others.  Whether you are able or not to do this, there is something else you can give to Jesus.

He gives himself to us.  Do you give yourself to Jesus?  It can include anything I’ve already mentioned.  It can and should also include giving Jesus a place in our hearts, giving him time, not just once in a while, not just once a week but in making time for Jesus everyday in prayer.  Spending time with Jesus is a gift to him and a gift to ourselves when gratitude and love fills our hearts.

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