Epiphany Sunday of Our Lord
A Homily - Cycle A - 2013-2014

by Rev. Luke Dundon

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First Reading Isaiah 60:1-6
Responsorial Psalm  72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Second Reading Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Gospel Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."  When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel." 

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage."  After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of god, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Pilgrimage.  Be it to the Holy Land, or to Washington, D.C., or to Emmitsburg.  It can be one of the most important things we can make in our faith journeys.  For some of the parish, it involved a trip to Rome last April.  For others, it involved a small trip to Emmitsburg last July.  (RCIA just this Saturday afternoon).  For still others, it will involve a trip to the Holy Land next month.  Whenever, wherever and however they occur, pilgrimages can be life-changing in the way we pray, the way we believe, the way in which we identify ourselves as Catholics.  Now pilgrimages are not easy.  They involve lots of planning.  They involve lots of saving.  They involve lots of sacrifice.  But in the end, if done well, if done with an open heart, they are worth it.  They change hearts.  They change lives.

This was certainly the case for the astrologers that came from the east.  They traveled roughly 1,000 miles, on a quest to find a child, all by the aid of a star.  A STAR is given to them, so that they can find the newborn savior.  Is such a thing possible?  Could such a thing happen?  Today we hear that it DID happen.  God actually allowed an astronomical event to help these foreigners find His own Son.  Yes, planning was necessary.  Saving resources had to happen.  Sacrifice was necessary.  But it must have been worth it for them, as these three wise men left their Persian home and headed west for Jerusalem.  And God gave them just the clues they needed so that they could find what they were looking for.  Mother nature was the first clue.  They could READ what the Lord had put in the Heavens, and discern where to go.  It’s a fantastic story!  AND it’s food for thought – do we recognize that the Lord can and does put in our path exactly what we need to find Him?  Can we or do we recognize His clues?

The clues don’t stop in nature, however.  This pilgrimage takes the wise men to Jerusalem, for the star is pointed in a general direction, but they need something extra.  They need to talk to the authorities about their situation.  They even need to talk to King Herod – the enemy!  The bad guy!  But Herod shows them the religious leaders who know where the Messiah is to be born, for they are authorities on the SCRIPTURE.  God’s Word.  Which is the next clue, which continues to point the way to the Christ child.  Without that holy word, they would never have found the Christ child.  How ironic that they find this next clue, THROUGH the devious assistance of an evil man like Herod . . .

And then, the climax – they find him in the little town of Bethlehem.  They’re overjoyed, they open up their treasures (which they’ve been hauling with them for a LONG ways now), and they present them to the newborn King.  Such an amazing encounter.  Such a wondrous meeting.  They’ve been looking forward to this for MONTHS now, traveling day and night so that they could see this little child.  And the encounter is something they’ll never forget.  They go home a different way to avoid contact with King Herod.  But let’s look at their departure this way –because of their encounter with Jesus, they go home a DIFFERENT WAY . . . because everything has changed!  Everything is different!  Their interaction isn’t just an isolated event, nor is it something that they just put in their scrap book – this changed EVERYTHING for them!  Their faith-filled encounter with Jesus Christ forever changed the course of their lives . . . starting with the direction they took home . . .

As priests of the diocese, we were challenged a few weeks ago at a retreat to reflect on when we first encountered the Christ.  In a VERY personal way . . . not because we were told to meet him, not because we were forced, but because we WANTED to . . . we ventured OUT . . . I’m still thinking about it myself, and though I don’t have a definitive answer, I DO think it’s a very powerful question, a question that should be asked.  Perhaps for me, it was when I was in the Holy Land as a seminarian on pilgrimage, and went up Calvary Hill for the first time.  I knelt down, looked at the spot where the cross had stood, and then it hit me like a beautiful ton of bricks.  HERE, on Calvary Hill, I had been loved more than anywhere else.  HERE, I had been loved more than ever before, ever since . . . when we set out on “pilgrimage,” the Lord will be found in a brand new way . . . we open our HEARTS in a much DEEPER way . . . even with king Herods in our life, even with the difficult moments or situations.  The encounter with JESUS CHRIST is waiting for us!  It was a great question for me, so I bring it up to all of us here – What was YOUR encounter like when YOU first met Him?  How has it changed you?  Have you HAD such a powerful encounter?  If not . . . then this year of 2014 might be a marvelous one . . . for the Lord has placed everything in our path so that we can find Him on our OWN unique pilgrimages this year.  I just pray that, like the wise men, we pick up our treasures, we get on our camels, and move . . . He is waiting . . .

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