Homily - Epiphany-2019

Mt 2:1-12 Is 60:1-6
Eph 3:2-3a,5-6

focus: Jesus is the light, the Savior of all humankind.
function: We are invited to receive the light and to manifest it to others.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, 0. a. A symphony, according to Wikipedia, is “an extended musical composition in Western classical music most often written by composers for orchestra.” In the orchestra, the many different instruments come together in harmony—and the result can be a magnificent work like Beethoven’s Eroica! The word symphony in its ancient Greek origin combines the prefix syn, which means together, with the word phonein, which means tosound. Sounds in harmony. In a figurative sense, we speak of a symphony of colors among the fall leaves of a park,or the symphony of colors in a magnificent sunrise! Colors in harmony!

A synthesis is, so Merriam Webster, “the composition or combination of parts or elements so as to form a whole.” Out of many perhaps diverse parts a whole is created, which is more than the sum of the parts. Here we have again the Greek the prefix syn: syntithenai--to put or place together.

Finally, we speak of synergy when two or more distinct business participants or elements come together—and the result is beneficial for all! One common energy.

In today’s gospel the magi, in response to their scientific observation and the meditation of their Sacred Scriptures, embark upon a journey. They seek a special newborn king. They spend many days in the desert, in stillness. In stillness we can more easily hear God speaking to us. They do.

First they arrive in Jerusalem, where the king resides, Herod. There, however, they hear God’s revelation to the prophet Micah: “You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah… from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Thus the seekers reach Bethlehem. Because the eyes of their hearts are open they can recognize the wonder-full work of God in the poor child who hasn’t been born in a royal palace, but in a stable. They use their own knowledge; they are willing to learn from the Scribes in Jerusalem; and they are ready to be surprised by God!

In the stable, the magi kneel down at the manger in adoration and present their gifts to the child. – The experience transforms them. Their ways are different ones now. They return to their country by another way.

In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah presents us with a vision of God’s light, God’s glory, which, he says, will be granted to many nations. People from all-over come together. They walk by this shining radiance and joyfully bring their gifts and riches to praise and adore God. In Jesus Christ, we see this prophecy fulfilled: He is the Light of the nations!

Today’s solemnity of Epiphany, the word translated means ‘Manifestation,’ expounds for us in greater fullness the meaning of Christmas: Jesus is the Light for all, for the whole world. He is the Messiah, the shepherd and ruler of his people Israel and of all peoples. And in him, as the preface of the feast proclaims, God has renewed all humanity in God’s own immortal image. We, all of us, all humans, have a share in his divine nature.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul explains further what we celebrate today by witnessing to the Ephesians about the mystery of God’s grace that wasn’t known yet to people of previous generations. Now the Holy Spirit has revealed it to him: namely that the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The Greek original text of the New Testament uses the prefix syn in three words: synkleroma, syssoma and symmetoxa: Jews and Gentiles, all people, are heirs together, one body together, partners together in the promise, meaning they are called to make the promise of unity in Christ a reality ever more fully.

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, Jesus is the light, the Savior, of all humankind. We, like the magi, are called upon to receive the light and to manifest it to others.

The magi are models for us. They are seekers. They travel in the quietness of the desert. Prayer and trusting faith in God have made them clear-sighted, as St. Bernard once remarked. They are humble enough to recognize the Son of God as he sucks milk, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in the poverty of the stable. Prayer, stillness, and humility are necessary also for us to see the presence and the work of God, the glory of God, in the people whom we encounter today!

If this is so, then we can also be co-partners in the promise and strengthen the unity that already exists between us and others. We will be able to reach out to, and be surprised by, people whose personality, background, language or nationality are different from ours.

The result will be synergy and synthesis, a symphony of the various gifts that God wants to make manifest in and through us—for His glory. AMEN.

Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB