WITNESS TO JESUS: EPIPHANY
This is the text of Bishop Silva’s homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, Jan. 7, delivered at the Carmelite Convent Chapel in Kaneohe.
When I visit the parishes of our diocese, I am always impressed by the faith and devotion of our parishioners. Our parishes offer schools to educate our youth, religious education programs, youth ministry, outreach to the homebound, programs to feed the hungry, and many other wonderful services. I was thinking of the recent pre-Christmas Misas de Gallo, those early morning (4:30 or 5 a.m.!) Masses on the nine days before Christmas that perhaps a third or half of our parishes celebrate now. I would be willing to bet that throughout our state 10,000 people participated daily in such Masses. That is a cause for rejoicing. So many of our people are such an inspiration in their faith and devotion to the Lord Jesus!
Yet in those parish visits I also note that the wonderful things we do are generally for those who come to us. Seldom do we venture out of the confines of the parish to shine the light of Christ in the dark places that cover the earth. We seldom let our light shine beyond those who already believe what we believe so that they, too, can come to know the light of the world. So today’s feast of the Epiphany — the showing forth of the Lord — is a good occasion to reflect on the mission the Lord has given us to be the stars that guide the “gentiles” of our world — those who do not know the Lord Jesus except as an historical character. But like the Magi, those wise men from the East, we must venture out, leave the comfort of the familiar, and go to others so that they can know and love the Savior of the world.
While the Magi probably travelled many hundreds of miles over “field and fountain, moor and mountain,” (as the song says) we may not have to travel any farther than the kitchen table, where our family members gather who either have really never known the love of Jesus or who have put him to one side in their lives. We may not have to go any farther than the lunchroom at work where we can give witness to Jesus to our coworkers, engaging them in conversation about our faith and the light that it brings to our lives. Even though the distances we have to travel may be very short, the journey can be as formidable as crossing a desert or climbing a mountain. If Jesus is to have his epiphany, his being shown to those who do not yet know him, then we must commit to make that journey beyond the safety of those we know already share our faith.
This story also calls us to be realistic, however. It would be foolish to set out on a journey without preparing for it, and one of the things we note is that the journey may take us to those who are hostile to Jesus and his message, just as Herod was. Herod, of course, viewed the “newborn king of the Jews” as competition, and he would tolerate no competition to his kingship. In these days, we live in a culture characterized by what I call “egotheism,” in which each individual thinks that he or she is the ultimate arbiter of the truth, deciding for oneself when life begins and when it should end, one’s gender, or one’s own definition of truth. This self-anointing is, of course, contrary to the Gospel, which recognizes we are creatures who live in the truth that we did not create, but who do so with splendor and light, because we bask in the love of God. We must be prepared for the suspicion and even rejection that can come when we inadvertently threaten the kingship of another by inviting them to bow down before the true King of all. The Magi presented gifts of gold and frankincense, indicating homage to a king. Yet they also took myrrh, the oil used to anoint the dead, because they knew that paying homage to the real king would throw other kings and queens into fits of jealousy.
Yet if we feel a joy in knowing Jesus, we will feel an even greater joy in making the journey out of ourselves to share his light and love with others who do not yet know him or whose love for him has grown cold. He did not come as God-with-us to be hidden away, but to be a light to all nations. And he has called each of us who already have come to adore him to be the stars that guide others to offer all they have and all they are in homage to the Savior of the world.