Thursday, January 1, 2015

Homily (3) the Epiphany of the Lord: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (3) the Epiphany of the Lord: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 60:1-6; Ps 72:1-2,7-8,10-13; Eph 3:2-3a,5-6 and Matt 2:1-12

Let Every Nation on earth Adore You O Lord!

The responsorial Psalm “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you Lord” captures the essence of what we celebrate today, the Epiphany of our Lord. Every Solemnity of the Epiphany brings us together “to adore the Lord,” and make him known to the whole world. Truly, our God freely and willingly manifested himself to us in Christ,  deserves adoration and our worship. He is the word that became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). This Word must be shared with our neighbors.

Saint Paul bore witness to this Word in his missionary journeys to the Gentile nations as noted in the 2nd reading. Paul says, to the church in Ephesus “you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefits…. That the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6).

 Paul’s message was long foretold by the prophet Isaiah in the first reading, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your Light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See darkness covers the earth, and the thick cloud covers the peoples, but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appear his glory. Nations shall walk by light and kings by your shining radiance… bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Isa 60:1-6).

Christ's Birth is an entrance of Light into the world of darkness. It is an entrance of Light and Divine Strength into our human weaknesses, selfishness, self- centeredness, and sufferings. It is a manifestation, of divine goodness into our lives. It is an epiphany of God's love, his Mercy, his Tender Care and Kindness to all nations and continents, Jews and Gentiles, poor and rich, queens and kings.

Epiphany is a manifestation of God to our children, to mummy and daddy, to husbands and wives, seminarians and priests, to friends, partners, politicians, poets, colleagues and peers. It is a feast when Jesus, who we celebrated at Christmas, is made known to the whole world, to every continent and nations: Lord, every nation on earth shall adore you” (Ps 72).

 Epiphany is a gathering of every nation to adore Christ. This is true even when you look at our faces, our colors, and our eyes, particularly our last names. I was recently in Africa and Europe the joy was the same at Christmas, every nation adoring the Lord- the power of faith- only Christ can gather us together at birth and at death. What a miracle of faith.

At his birth, manifestation many reacted: the angels, who sang, “glory to God in the highest,” the shepherds who traveled to the manger in Bethlehem to visit with the holy family, Simeon, the prophet sang the nunc dimittis, while Anna, the prophetess saw the uniqueness in Christ and spoke about this special child to everyone(Luke 2). What is your reaction to the story of Christmas, to the Christmas plays we watched, to Christmas carols and music we have listened to, to all the Christmas homilies we have heard from the lips of the Pope, bishops, different priests and pastors? Do you like Anna internalize it or be ready to go out a manifest this love to others, the poor and the rich? Or do you keep it to yourself?
 In today’s Gospel (Matt 1:1-12) the magi join in this chain of reaction. Guided by the star, they came all the way from the East, from abroad outside Bethlehem/Judea, to adore Christ, to worship Christ (proskunh/), to submit themselves to Christ. They brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and foretold by Isaiah the first reading.

Every nation adores the Lord, including those who studied the stars. God can speak to us. He can manifest Himself to us through our various professions and occupations. All that he requires of us are (the gifts of) disposition, willingness, openness and readiness, irrespective of our profession. You can be an attorney, a nurse, a doctor, a secretary, a receptionist, a broker, a plumber, a factory worker, a church volunteer, a student, employed or unemployed, a trader, wine maker/tapper, a bank teller, a football coach, a husband, housewife, a Jew or Gentile with deep faith.

We can learn from the Gentiles the Magi. Their journeys I believe were not rosy-rosy. Mostly likely there were some difficulties on the way. They must have left their homes, children and family members searching for Christ in a territory where Herod was appointed the king of the Jews by the Roman imperialism. I am sure being learned scientists they were not na├»ve, they knew, humanly it would be risky facing Herod, the reigning earthly king, when at the same time searching to adore the heavenly King, the true “King of the Jews,” and “the King of kings.” Being a faithful Christian in this New Year and at the same time a good citizen is not always easy. Being a good Christian and a good politician or a good member of the United Nations was never going to be without faith. These things are possible when we walk with deep faith, when we listen to the impulses of the Holy Spirit, when we follow the light of Christ not our own will, as the magi did and as prophesied long ago by the Prophet Isaiah “nations shall walk by your light.”

 Nations of professionals including the magi from Sheba shall submit (proskunh/) themselves to Jesus and worship him. The precious gifts the brought Christ from the East- gold, frankincense and myrrh are significant.    Gold recalls the royalty of Christ which lies in his mission of justice, peace, love, forgiveness and holiness of life- Not bullying, revenge and terrorism. In Frankincense we recall the perfume and the incense we use during worship- which is a symbol of hope and faith that we all place in Jesus our Messiah.

 In another place, Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthian 2:15. St.  Paul invites us to bring out that noble “aroma of Christ” among ourselves: peace, love, forgiveness, universalism, inclusiveness, friendship and acts of charity.  In Myrrh we recall the sufferings, the pains and passion of Christ (Mark 15:20-23; Matt 27:33-44). And it was with Myrrh in John 19:39 that Nichodemus anointed Christ’s body for burial.

 Epiphany is a celebration of our faith from the strength of our jobs, vocations and occupations. Many with various occupations gathered here have that faith. Many with various professions are still searching for that faith. Like in the case of the Magi sometimes the journey may be long and rough. In the case of the Shepherds they risked abandoning their flocks and rushing to see the Christ born at the manger in Bethlehem. Simeon and Anna did not mind their old age. They faithfully and passionate sang and spoke about the blessings brought to Israel by the redeemer- Christ.

For us when we finally find that faith we are call to share it with others. This is not a time for “globalization of indifference” mentioned by Pope Francis in his 2015 New Year Message. But a time to globalize the light/love of Christ to others. We are invited to share with and manifest the message of Christmas for our friends, relatives and in our communities. We are called to manifest that faith, to spread that aroma of Christ, that golden peace, that inclusiveness, that joy, that charity, that forgiveness, those gifts, among others, among every nation. Lord every nation on earth will adore you!