• Isaiah 60:1-6 • Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 • Matthew 2:1-12 • Epiphany of the Lord A ’14 •
Scripture Readings: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 01.05.2014
Both Matthew and Luke introduce their gospels with “Infancy Narratives.” These narratives were composed to guide us into “the Christ mystery.” They are not accounts of historical events but theological reflections. This lovely tableau of a star and “magi from the east” is an example of what this means. Matthew is not describing an event that actually happened. He is introducing the reader to “the Christ Mystery.”
The liturgical name for this visit of the Magi is “Epiphany.” We don’t hear that word very often. It means “a manifestation,” “an appearance,” or “a sudden “insight.” My task in this homily is to help all of us appreciate the “insight” Matthew seeks to convey in this story. That “insight” is the meaning and significance of “the Christ Mystery.”
Those in Matthew’s community were primarily Jews. They choose to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth because they were convinced he was the long-awaited Messiah. Matthew wants his readers to know that in Jesus a new creation is emerging as he, like a new Moses, liberates us from all that prevents us from becoming fully human.
Like all people in the Middle East, Matthew and his community were subject to Caesar. Every day they heard repeatedly that Caesar was the Divine One, the Lord of the Universe, the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace. This was blasphemy to the ears of both Jew and Christian. With this story Matthew is counteracting those claims. Matthew is reminding his readers those titles describe Jesus. Christ — not Caesar liberates us from all that prevents us from becoming fully human.
There is more to the visit of the Magi. This text is relevant today because it directs us toward our future. Christianity is about “the Christ Mystery” and “The Christ Mystery” is our future. As our ancestors read the gospels as literal narratives, Christianity morphed into historical nostalgia for something in the past. Heaven or eternal life emerged as meaningful metaphors drawing us to our future but these metaphors have become vague abstractions for most folks today.
“The Christ Mystery” is about our future. Our brother whose birth among us we celebrate is much more than one particular human being; much more than a single child born long ago in a distant land. He is the best of who we are. In him resides the hope for who we are becoming. Christ embodies “the highest aspiration of every human person; the deepest desire of every human heart. Christ is the lover for whom we long and in whose absence our hearts are restless.”
We name him the “Christ” because he is the “Omega point,” the ultimate force of attraction for the universe. In the villages of Galilee he awakened us to a new reality named “the reign of God.” In Christ a new being, a “new creation” has begun to emerge and all peoples of all continents, nations, ethnic groups or religions are invited to participate in it. Matthew’s “Magi from the east” symbolize this “new creation.” In Christ we, with all of our diversity, are being drawn into that “new creation” and one day will live and consciously interact with unconditional love.
Evolution is the process. It is the process through and in the midst of which the Creator brought us into being. Since the beginning, our human family has been evolving toward greater unity, fuller life. Evolution is the forward movement, never smooth, never free of struggle and pain, always drawing us to that greater unity which is love.
I believe everything I have tried to express in these thoughts! However, people in Syria and so many of our brothers and sisters in too many places are struggling to survive civil war, violence and discord. Their circumstance poses a nagging question to all of us. Is the human family really evolving toward a greater unity? I think we are. I trust that we will continue to do so as we allow our knowledge and relationship with Christ to direct our lives and move us forward. That is “the Christ Mystery!”