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Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord

January 3, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

The Epiphany story is a favorite of just about everyone, what with the star of wonder and the mysterious visitors from the East and their gleaming gifts. But beneath the glory of this story is the reality of the magi being faithful to something others did not see. They had a vision which guided them through unknown and dangerous territory. They saw something which others dismissed as unimportant.

Surely as they struck out on their journey they would have been ridiculed by others. Following a vision that few others share is a very hard thing. Surely others who did not see what the magi saw mocked them, thinking the magi to be silly or worse, just plain stupid. Remaining faithful to the vision is a difficult decision. The journey is long and full of challenges.

If it would have been easy and obvious, there would have been more than just a few wise men making the journey. If the vision would have been so readily believable, then all the folks in Jerusalem would have been going with the wise men on the short trek down to Bethlehem. But the magi saw something others did not see, in the darkness a light to guide them, a star speaking to them of something of great importance happening in the world.

It had to have been a hard decision to remain true to their vision, to remain faithful to what they felt called to do, especially when no one else saw what they saw.

Being faithful to your life, following the path onto which you have put your feet with fidelity and confidence, is a very hard thing. To set out on a journey that does not make much sense to many others is difficult. To respond to a call that no one else hears is challenging.

Being in church every time the community assembles to make your commitment to its mission and life is a very hard thing. To do so during a pandemic is even more challenging. It is even challenging for those who because of health issues or advancing age, choose to join Sunday Mass by way of livestream. There are so many other more “productive” or “fun” things to be doing with our valuable time on a Sunday morning.

Remaining faithful to the vision is a hard decision.

It can be hard to choose marriage in a culture which mocks commitment. Or, after earning a college degree, and then answering the call to work with the poor in a 3rd world country, one can be looked upon as crazy. Or, you want to be a priest—are you out of your mind? To choose a lower-paying job that gives one more time with one’s family—loco! In a culture which views children as a burden rather than as a blessing, to decide to have more children or to adopt a child is looked upon with disbelief. Or when a nurse or doctor chooses to come out of your retirement during the middle of a pandemic others look upon them as if they have lost their mind.

Remaining faithful to the vision is an ongoing hard decision.

Holding on to the vision of the kingdom of God that our Church proclaims and wanting to share that vision is a hard thing, too. To choose mercy over vengeance, to choose forgiveness over resentment, to choose peace instead of violence is challenging in today’s world. To choose to respect and honor all life from conception to a natural death— that’s a difficult journey of faith.

What keeps us going on the journey, following the star of faith? What keeps us faithful to the One who is calling us to walk to the beat of his drum? How do we keep our head up and focused on the light instead of being swallowed by the darkness?

Having the support of other “wise” sojourners makes all the difference. Notice that there were several “Wise Men” who followed the star. If there was only one, then the Scripture text would have read, “behold a magos from the east” but instead the text reads,”Behold magi from the east appeared in Jerusalem.”

The wise men had each other’s support and encouragement to remain faithful to the vision, to keep putting one foot in front of the other on the long journey. Remember they had to journey at night, in the dark, in order to see the star. They did this together, as lights to each other in the midst of the darkness.

Really, there is no such thing as a “wise man” or a “wise woman” because as human beings we are only wise together. We can only see the way ahead and find the strength to keep moving toward our goal with the help of others who are wise in the ways of faith, hope and love.

To make important decisions and keep them, we need the support of other people of faith.

Together we accept and respond to the calling of a star which others tell us is folly, impractical, or old fashioned. When we are tempted to give up on what we have seen and hope for, others are there to encourage us to overcome the temptation. And we are called to support them, to urge them on, to hold them to their commitments which seem like foolishness to a secular world.

Because together we are called to bear God’s glory to the world. One light shining in the darkness is not much. But when we join the light of our lives to others’ light we shine like the sun, bringing the Son of God’s love to the world.

Do you see what I see? A star, a star shining in the night. Do you see what I see? The child of promise, the child of hope, the source of love, the source of all light laying in a manger. Do you see what I see? The king of kings nailed to a tree. The Lord of Life coming to share his life with us in this sacred meal!