Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord
January 8, 2017
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
The very first verses of the Bible, in Chapter 1 of Genesis, tell us:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth….
Then … God said: Let there be light, and there was light.”
Think about this: “God said…and there was light”
God’s mere word brought forth light.
Eons later, drawing on this opening passage of Genesis
St. John the Apostle tells us in the opening passage of his gospel,
that we read at Mass on Christmas Day
“In the beginning was the Word,
…and the Word was God….
All things came to be through him….”
And then he adds: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
For St. John when he reads Genesis and sees God speaking the word to create,
he recognizes that creative Word as God’s only Son
acting right from the beginning with the Father.
The Son, the word who became flesh and dwelt among us: Jesus.
And what is the first thing that is created by the Word
who would become Jesus?
“Let there be light, and there was light.”
And so, St. John would go on to write:
“What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
The birth of the baby Jesus is the dawning of the light of God in the world.
So that the grown man Jesus tells us about himself later:
“I am the light of the world;
he who follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
My friends, the world is divided into light and darkness.
Not merely the light of day
but more importantly the interior or spiritual light that allows us
to see clearly things as they are, to not be afraid of the unknown.
And not merely the darkness of night,
but more importantly the interior or spiritual darkness that causes us
to be blind to the truth
to stumble over obstacles unseen,
to be in constant fear of the unknown evil lurking in the shadows
The world is divided into the light of Christ,
and the darkness of the world without Christ.
And we, as Christians are called to live with Christ, to live in his light.
To see things in light of his truth.
To see the reality of his presence and grace in our lives
so that we need never fear a thing or feel alone or abandoned.
The light of Christ that illuminates the darkness
so we can see and recognize love, good, beauty and forgiveness.
The light of Christ, that shines on even as the darkness of sin surrounds us,
like little children gathered around a campfire
that keeps us warm
and chases away the wild animals that would harm us
But so many all over the world live in darkness.
Searching for light to see in,
groping around in the night,
wearing blinders of sin and ignorance
or empty ideologies or false religions.
And so they chase after anything that sparkles,
giving some imitation of light,
something to ease the fear and emptiness, and confusion,
They scurry after and hold tight to things like
feel-good philosophies or false prophets,
or to wealth or fame or power,
or sex or drugs or alcohol.
But while these things may glitter for one satisfying moment,
they quickly fizzle into cold gloom.
And so they go from one false light to another,
sinking deeper and deeper into darkness.
But man was created to live in true light, and so he continues to search.
In today’s gospel we find such men, searching for the light.
Scripture calls them “Magi”—or learned men, wise men.
Men from the east who were clearly well versed in the science of the stars
as well as the theology of various religions,
including the writings of the Jewish prophets
that foretold the coming of a star in the sky
that would indicate the birth of the savior of the world.
These were not foolish superstitious men, but scientists.
But they were also human beings, and used their vast knowledge
to search for the light.
And they found it.
They saw a strange new beautiful light in the sky,
and that small light, that new star,
led them to the fullness of light.
“And behold, the star that they had seen
…stopped over the place where the child was.
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.”
Today billions of people continue this search.
Billions of Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists, animists, agnostics and atheists,
long for the true light, cling to the flickers of light they find,
but still do not possess it.
But we do.
Just as the magi found Christ in “the house” with His Mother Mary,
Christ remains in the house he built,
living with His Mother Mary and the rest of His family,
you and I, his brothers and sisters.
The house which is His Holy Church on earth.
And so the light of Christ continues to shine in the Church,
and in each one of us who lives in his house of light.
Unfortunately, all too often we ignore that light.
We prefer the glitter that fizzles out.
We shield or eyes and even put on blinders,
or even run away from the light into the darkness.
Why do we do that?
Well, for one reason, sometimes light can be frightening—at least at first.
When the light of truth shines in our lives when we really allow it to.
We see the evil that surrounds us, but also the evil in our own lives,
the things that we do. That can be very frightening
when the light shines on that and we see what we have to contend with.
Imagine you’re in a dark room and you hear all a frightening noise close by.
You know, you kind of get under the covers and pull the covers over your eyes.
You like the darkness and think the darkness somehow shields you.
But then suddenly a light comes on and you see a snarling wolf
staring you in the face;
and you’re so focused on the wolf just a few feet away
that you don’t notice that he’s is chained to a stake and can’t move;
and you don’t see he’s been shot and is bleeding to death,
shot by the great big hunter standing at your side with a big smoking gun,
still read to fire again to protect you;
and you don’t notice your mother standing on your other side
smiling at you, with her arm around you.
The light of truth can sometimes be scary at first,
but the fear fades if only we have the patience
to take in the fullness of what the light shows us.
So as the angel said to the shepherds: “be not afraid.”
And like the magi do not be afraid to open your eyes
and see all things in the light of Christ.
And don’t keep that light to yourself,
when billions of people all over the world are searching for it.
When your neighbor next door, and your own children, parents and spouses
long for it.
As Jesus tells us elsewhere in the Gospels:
“men [do not] light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand….
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
First let the light of Christ that entered the world on Christmas Day,
and that entered your life at your Baptism,
and that is rekindled in Confession,
and magnified in the Eucharist,
let that light shine in your life so you can see clearly the difference
between good works and bad works.
And then avoid the bad works and do the good works
so that everyone can see the light of Christ
shining through that goodness.
And when I say “good works”, I don’t just mean “be nice.”
After all, right after Jesus tells the crowds to
“let the light shine through your good works”
he immediately launches into a sermon
about keeping the 10 commandments.
And it’s not just through your good works that you shine the light of Christ.
Remember, Christ the Light is the Word made flesh.
God spoke, and there was light.
And so you must also speak to others about Christ,
shining the light of Christ telling them about the Word of God.
My friends, as we continue with this holy Mass,
the light of Christ reveals to the eyes of faith
the great mystery of Christmas coming into our presence:
the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us,
the Body and Blood of God the Son on the altar.
In His presence we follow the example of three Magi,
who “prostrated themselves and did him homage.”
And as he comes to us in Holy Communion,
we pray that he will illuminate our hearts,
so that in His light we may see and live according to his word,
making our lives become like bright stars
shining in the darkness of the cold winter night of the world,
leading all those who are wise and seek the light of truth
to the Babe in manger in Bethlehem
and his dwelling among us in His Holy Church.