cross background

Browsing Blog

Monsignor Yennock on Epiphany - Homily from January 7, 2018

Jan 8, 2018

EPIPHANY 2018 JANUARY 7

WHEN JESUS WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM WISE MEN FROM THE EAST CAME TO DO HIM HOMAGE. WHO WERE THESE WISE MEN?

THE MAGI AS THEY ARE CALLED WERE A TRIBE OF PRIESTS. WHAT THE LEVITES WERE IN ISRAEL, THE MAGI WERE IN PERSIA. THEY BECAME THE TEACHERS AND INSTRUCTORS OF THE PERSIAN KINGS. WHENEVER A SACRIFICE WAS OFFERED IN PERSIA A MAGI HAD TO BE PRESENT. THEY BECAME MEN OF HOLINESS AND WISDOM.

THESE MAGI WERE MEN WHO WERE SKILLED IN PHILOSOPHY, MEDICINE AND NATURAL SCIENCE. THEY WERE SOOTHSAYERS AND INTERPRETERS OF DREAMS. BUT AT THEIR BEST THE MAGI WERE GOOD AND HOLY MEN, WHO WERE SEARCHING FOR TRUTH. THEY WERE SEEKERS OF THE TRANSCENDENT.

IN THOSE ANCIENT DAYS EVERYONE BELIEVED IN ASTROLOGY. THEY BELIEVED THAT THEY COULD FORETELL THE FUTURE FROM THE STARS, AND THEY BELIEVED THAT A MAN'S DESTINY WAS SETTLED BY THE STAR UNDER WHICH HE WAS BORN. IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO SEE HOW THAT BELIEF AROSE. THE STARS REPRESENT THE ORDER OF THE UNIVERSE.

IF SOME BRILLIANT STAR SUDDENLY APPEARED IT COULD LOOK LIKE GOD WAS BREAKING INTO HIS OWN ORDER TO ANNOUNCE SOMETHING VERY SPECIAL.

WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT BRILLIANT STAR THOSE ANCIENT MAGI SAW. MANY SUGGESTIONS HAVE BEEN MADE. AROUND THAT TIME HALLEY'S COMET WAS VISIBLE SHOOTING BRILLIANTLY ACROSS THE SKIES. AT THE TIME OF JESUS BIRTH THERE WAS AN UNUSUAL ASTRONOMICAL PHENOMENON.

TO THOSE ANCIENT ASTROLOGERS SUCH A PHENOMENON COULD UNDOUBTEDLY HAVE MEANT THE BIRTH OF SOME GREAT KING. WE CANNOT TELL WHAT STAR THE MAGI SAW; BUT IT WAS THEIR PROFESSION TO WATCH THE HEAVENS, AND SOME HEAVENLY BRILLIANCE SPOKE TO THEM OF THE ENTRY OF A KING INTO THE WORLD.

THE PROPHET ISAIAH SAYS: “NATIONS SHALL WALK BY YOUR LIGHT AND KINGS BY YOUR SHINING RADIANCE.”

JESUS CHRIST CAME TO A WORLD THAT WAS EXPECTING HIM. MEN AND WOMEN WERE WAITING FOR GOD. THEY HAD DISCOVERED THAT THEY COULD NOT BUILD THE GOLDEN AGE WITHOUT GOD. IT WAS TO A WAITING WORLD THAT JESUS CAME; AND, WHEN HE CAME, THE ENDS OF THE EARTH GATHERED AT HIS CRADLE. IT WAS THE FIRST SIGN AND SYMBOL OF THE WORLD CONQUEST OF CHRIST

IT IS EXTRAORDINARY THAT JUST ABOUT THE TIME THAT JESUS WAS BORN THERE WAS A UNIVERSAL SENSE OF EXPECTATION. EVEN THE ROMAN HISTORIANS SENSED THIS EXPECTATION THAT A KING OF SOME SORT WAS GOING TO EMERGE.

AUGUSTUS, THE ROMAN EMPEROR WAS BEING HAILED AS THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD, ALMOST AT THE SAME TIME AS JESUS WAS BORN

THE ROMAN HISTORIAN, TACITUS, WRITES THAT "THERE WAS A FIRM PERSUASION ... THAT AT THIS VERY TIME THE EAST WAS TO GROW POWERFUL, AND RULERS COMING FROM JUDAEA WERE TO ACQUIRE A UNIVERSAL EMPIRE”.

THE JEWS BELIEVED THAT "ABOUT THAT TIME ONE FROM THEIR COUNTRY SHOULD BECOME GOVERNOR OF THE HABITABLE EARTH."

LEST WE THINK THAT THE COMING OF THE MAGI IS ONLY A LEGEND IT IS EXACTLY THE KIND OF THING THAT COULD HAVE EASILY HAPPENED IN THAT ANCIENT WORLD.

THE DESIRE FOR CONNECTION WITH GOD IS IN THE HEART OF EVERY HUMAN BEING. MANKIND HAS ALWAYS SEARCHED FOR GOD.

“IN THE DAYS OF KING HEROD MAGI FROM THE EAST ARRIVED IN JERUSALEM SAYING: “WHERE IS THE NEWBORN KING OF THE JEWS? WE HAVE SEEN HIS STAR AT ITS RISING AND HAVE COME TO DO HIM HOMAGE?”

I WANT YOU TO NOTICE SOMETHING HERE. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO WHAT I AM SAYING BECAUSE THIS IS IMPORTANT. WHY DID THESE LEARNED MEN COME TO JERUSALEM TO INQUIRE ABOUT THE KING TO BE BORN? THEY WERE WISE AND LEARNED MEN. THEY WERE ASTROLOGERS, THEY WERE SCIENTISTS. WHY DID THEY NEED TO SEEK INFORMATION FROM A HIGHER SOURCE?

WHAT MADE THE LEADERS OF ISRAEL SO SPECIAL? WHERE DID THEY GET THE INFORMATION THAT THE MAGI WERE TRYING TO FIND OUT?

I AM ASKING THIS QUESTION BECAUSE OUR MODERN CULTURE FINDS A TENSION BETWEEN SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION. OUR YOUNG PEOPLE ARE SAYING I AM SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS. THEY SAY: “I AM LOOKING FOR GOD BUT I DON’T NEED RELIGION TO TELL ME WHERE TO FIND HIM”.

WHY DID THE MAGI WHO WERE SPIRITUAL MEN HAVE TO GO TO RELIGIOUS MEN TO FIND OUT WHERE GOD WOULD MAKE HIS ENTRY INTO THE WORLD? SPIRITUALITY ALONE WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR THEM. THEY NEEDED THE REVELATION OF GOD TO FIND GOD. IS THAT SO HARD TO BELIEVE?

OF ALL THE SPIRITUALITY IN THE WORLD IT IS ONLY IN JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY THAT WE FIND A GOD WHO SEEKS US WHILE WE ARE SEEKING HIM. OF ALL THE SPIRITUALITY IN THE WORLD IT IS ONLY IN JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY THAT GOD REVEALS HIMSELF THROUGH PATRIARCHS, PRIESTS AND PROPHETS HUNDREDS OF YEARS BEFORE HIS COMING. .

SPIRITUALITY IS GOOD. IT IS NATURAL AND NECESSARY, BUT SPIRITUALITY IS NOT ENOUGH. SPIRITUALITY NEEDS TO BE LIFTED UP BY REVELATION. WE NEED GOD’S HELP TO FIND THE GOD WHO IS PERFECT TRUTH, PERFECT GOODNESS AND PERFECT BEAUTY. RELIGION HELPS US IN OUR SEARCH.

JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY ARE THE GUARDIANS OF GOD’S REVELATION TO THE WORLD. THE MAGI WERE TRULY WISE AND HUMBLE. THEY WERE SPIRITUAL MEN WHO KNEW THAT THEY NEEDED THE GUIDANCE OF A POWER GREATER THAN THEMSELVES. THAT’S WHY THEY WENT TO JERUSALEM.

WHEN THE MAGI CAME TO JERUSALEM HEROD SUMMONED THE PRIESTLY GUARDIANS OF REVELATION. HE SUMMONED ALSO THE SCRIBES WHO WERE EXPERTS IN SCRIPTURE AND IN THE LAW. THESE SCHOLARS KNEW THE PROPHECIES. THEY KNEW WHERE THE KING OF THE JEWS WAS TO BE BORN.

“IN BETHLEHEM OF JUDEA” THEY SAID: “FOR THUS IT HAS BEEN WRITTEN THROUGH THE PROPHET.”

HEROD SENT FOR THE MAGI. HE TOLD THEM TO MAKE DILIGENT SEARCH FOR THE LITTLE CHILD. HE TOLD THEM THAT HE WANTED TO WORSHIP THE CHILD. THE MAGI WERE TOO SMART FOR HEROD. THEY KNIEW THAT HE WANTED TO KILL THE BABY, BECAUSE THE BABY WAS TO BE BORN IN BETHLEHEM THE CITY OF DAVID WHERE REAL KINGS COME FROM.

MATTHEW WRITES: “WHEN HEROD THE KING HEARD OF THIS HE WAS DISTURBED, AND SO WAS ALL JERUSALEM WITH HIM.”

HEROD HAD EVERY REASON TO BE DISTURBED WHEN HE HEARD THAT A CHILD HAD BEEN BORN WHO COULD BE A THREAT TO HIS THRONE. HEROD HAD SOME JEWISH BLOOD IN HIS VEINS BUT IT WAS MIXED WITH PAGAN BLOOD.

THE ROMANS APPOINTED HEROD GOVERNOR IN 47 B.C. HE RECEIVED THE TITLE OF KING IN 40 B.C.  THE JEWS KNEW THAT HE WAS NOT A LEGITIMATE KING. HE WAS NOT FROM THE TRIBE OF JUDAH. HE WAS NOT FROM THE HOUSE OF DAVID.

THE JEWS WERE GRATEFUL THAT HEROD REBUILT THEIR TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM BUT THEY FEARED AND DESPISED HIM.

KING HEROD’S CHARACTER WOULD CAUSE ANYONE TO FEAR HIM AND DESPISE HIM.  HE WAS INSANELY SUSPICIOUS. IF HE SUSPECTED ANYONE AS A RIVAL TO HIS POWER, THAT PERSON WAS PROMPTLY ELIMINATED. HE MURDERED HIS WIFE AND HER MOTHER. HE ASSASSINATED HIS ELDEST SON AND TWO OTHER SONS. SUCH WAS THE CHARACTER OF HEROD.

WE LEARN FROM THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY THAT THERE WILL ALWAYS BE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD LIKE HEROD. THEY FIND IN THE TEACHING OF JESUS OF BETHLEHEM A THREAT TO THEIR WAY OF LIFE. THE MARTYRS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND THE PRESENT DAY MARTYRS IN THE MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA AND ASIA ARE VICTIMS OF PEOPLE LIKE HEROD.

O GOD, YOU ARE MY GOD; I SHALL SEEK YOU EARNESTLY; MY SOUL THIRSTS FOR YOU, MY FLESH YEARNS FOR YOU, IN A DRY AND WEARY LAND WHERE THERE IS NO WATER. (Ps. 63:1)

EVERYONE HAS A NATURAL DESIRE TO KNOW THE LIVING GOD. IN OUR HEART OF HEARTS WE KNOW THAT THE HOUND OF HEAVEN IS PURSUING US WITH AN INFINITE LOVE. WE KNOW THAT SOMEWHERE THERE IS PERFECT TRUTH, PERFECT GOODNESS AND PERFECT BEAUTY. WE WANT TO BELIEVE.

IN SOUTHERN INDIA THERE IS A MISSIONARY PRIEST WHO HELPS TO RUN A HOME FOR THE POOR AND PEOPLE DYING OF AIDS. HE ALSO STAFFS A CHAPEL WHERE THERE IS EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGHOUT THE DAY.

HE TELLS THE STORY OF A YOUNG HOMELESS MAN IN HIS TWENTIES. THE YOUNG MAN HAD SUFFERED A STROKE IN HIS CHILDHOOD. HE WAS PARALYZED PERMANENTLY ON ONE SIDE OF HIS BODY. THIS MAN CAME TO THE CHAPEL EVERY DAY. HE STOOD IN THE DOORWAY, SOMETIMES FOR HOURS. HE JUST STOOD THERE LOOKING AT THE EUCHARIST. HE WAS NOT A CHRISTIAN. HE WAS A HINDU.

ONE DAY, AFTER MONTHS OF SEEING HIM THERE, THE PRIEST ASKED HIM GENTLY, “WHY DO YOU COME HERE TO STAND AT THE BACK OF THE CHAPEL? WHAT IS IT THAT YOU SEE THERE? THE YOUNG MAN PAUSED FOR A MOMENT, AND THEN HE SAID TO THE PRIEST: THEY TELL ME IT IS GOD, AND I TRY TO BELIEVE IT.

CHRISTMAS TELLS US IT IS GOD IN THE MANGER AND WE TRY TO BELIEVE IT.

“WHEN THE SONG OF THE ANGELS IS STILLED, WHEN THE STAR IN THE SKY IS GONE, WHEN THE KINGS AND WISE MEN GO HOME, WHEN THE SHEPHERDS ARE BACK WITH THEIR FLOCKS, THE WORK OF CHRISTMAS BEGINS:

TO FEED THE HUNGRY, TO RELEASE THE PRISONERS, TO REBUILD THE NATIONS, TO BRING PEACE AMONG BROTHERS, TO MAKE MUSIC WITH THE HEART.

THERE MUST BE A GOD SOMEWHERE. (Over My Head I Hear Music In The Air)

Subscribe

RSS Feed

Archive