Saturday, January 2, 2016

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, in this Year of Mercy!

“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Matt 2:2); and “Let every nation adore you O Lord” (Ps 72). These are two important quotations from today’s scripture readings. One, is from the three magi, while the other one from Psalm 72. Both of these quotations give meaning to what we gather in the Church-particularly in today’s liturgy- the Solemnity of the Epiphany- to do! On this day of the Epiphany, we have come again, as usual, from all walks of life, different professions, culture, gender and nationalities “to adore the Lord,” “to do him homage,” “to give praise to God,” “to thank him.” At every worship, God, and nothing else, no one else is the object and subject of our worship!

  Why do we worship God? I guess because of his love, his kindness, --- his willingness to liberate us, to manifest himself to us as long foretold by many of Israel’s Prophet, particularly the 1st and 2nd Isaiah. What we have heard in today’s first reading (Isaiah 60:1-6) is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving by and on behalf of those who lived to experience what it meant to be freed from exile, from pains, from the humiliation. Israel saw this freedom as a manifestation of light into the darkness of hatred, as an epiphany of the Lord to assist them, when they most needed him.

 The more reason Isaiah in today's first reading Isaiah reading sings the Lord’s glory saying to Israel, “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…” (Isa 60:1-6).

In writing his Gospel, Matthew sees Christ's birth as the appearance of the “glory” song by the prophet Isaiah. He see his birth as an entrance of Light into the world of darkness. Matthew sees the events of Christmas as an entrance of the Divine Strength into our human weaknesses, pains and sufferings, poverty and loses, illnesses and hopelessness. Epiphany is the coming of divine goodness into our lives. Epiphany of God’s love; epiphany of God's mercy to everyone, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

 How do we react to the Mercy of God and to his generosities! How did the angels react? They worship God and sang, the hymn we began this mass with, “glory to God in the highest.” How did the shepherds react? With joy, they left everything; travelled to the manger in Bethlehem to visit with the holy family. How did Simeon and Anna react? Simeon sang the Nunc dimities. Anna spoke about the uniqueness of Christ's blessings to everyone (Luke 2). How did Herod and his cronies react? They sought to kill Christ, rather than worship him. How did the magi, the astrologers, in today’s Gospel react (Matt 2:1-12). They saw the star, and came all the way from the East, amidst challenges on the way- outside Bethlehem,--- to do him homage, to worship Christ, to praise him, to adore him, “Lord let every nation adore.” The magi adored Christ, submitted themselves to Christ, worshiped Christ, and knelt before Christ, along with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh!

 Gold, often recalls the royalty of Christ, his universal mission of justice, peace, love, forgiveness, mercy and holiness of life.  Frankincense is a symbol of hope and faith that we all, universally must place in the divinity of Christ. The third gift, Myrrh represents his destiny on the cross, his anointing at burial and the event of the empty tomb, so that we all might be saved (John 19:39).

 Salvation, God’s love and mercy are universally available to all of us! The only requirement is our willingness to handover ourselves to Jesus. Paul speaks of this universal blessings of God in the 2nd reading, saying to the Ephesians “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).

 Again how we react to this available love and saving mercy of God, when we gather at worship, when we are at home, in schools, in our various places of work, offices and position of authority, is crucial! Like the Magi, it does not matter where you are, what you do. God can speak to us. He speaks to you. He manifests Himself to us in and through various events, professions and occupations. All that he requires of us- put differently, are (the gifts of) disposition, the fear of the Lord, the willingness, love and mercy for one another, our openness and readiness to embrace Christ. You can be an attorney, a priests, a religious,  a nurse, a doctor, a secretary, a receptionist, a broker, a plumber, a factory worker, a church volunteer, a student, employed or unemployed, a bank teller, a football coach, a husband, housewife, a Jew or Gentile with deep faith.

And when we receive this, faith, this love of God, may we share with our neighbors divine mercies, may we adore the Lord,-like the three magi, who saw the star, and came to do him homage! Lord, let every nation on earth adore you, especially in this special Jubilee Year of Mercy!