Homily for Epiphany 2006

To prepare a homily week by week can be a dangerous thing! We are incessantly being bombarded with words in the media, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines. We are responding to ideas and opinions every day as we meet people. It is dangerous, then, to offer even more words to a captive audience like yourselves. Even more dangerous when you consider that what these words are supposed to do is break open the very Word of God for us in the scriptures.

The brilliance of the scriptures, of course, is that they give us access to revealed wisdom by way of stories that even the youngest can understand. That is so especially of the Christmas stories. The story of the magi visiting the infant Jesus is told only by Matthew. The story of the visit of the shepherds is told only by Luke. In our imagination we put them all together as one narrative.

Both the shepherds in Luke and the magi in Matthew are outsiders. The shepherds, living as they did out on the hills with the sheep, were unable to fulfil the requirements of the Law and so were regarded as the lowest of people. The magi in Luke were non-Jews. They were astrologeres of some kind, and gentiles. Therefore, they too were outsiders. That is not to vilify the observance of the Law nor the Jews in general. Rather, there is a clear message here about for whom this child is born: Jesus is born for all.

The insiders, the local wise men whom Herod consulted about the messiah, had all the answers. The truth was in their midst. But they could not recognise it.

We hear the Word and preach homilies not in isolation. We do that within the Christian assembly. We do in within prayer. That is why we persevere with it. We know we are not trying to preach our own wisdom or simply reaffirm our personal opinions or prejudices. If we do that we are like the insiders of the Gospel who think they know it all but are oblivious to the new life that surrounds them.

And we are not here just to listen. We are here to act. To participate in the saving action of Jesus through the Eucharist. The ritual of the Eucharist is wordy enough, but the words are accompanied by our actions together so that the familiar words do not remain words. But with the actions they are lifegiving. We break bread and share wine. We sing and we stand and we kneel. With our whole being we are here for God.

But strangely enough, Mass is not just about doing the Sunday thing. I am facinated when I listen to minisers of some other churches speak. Their theology of attending a service on Sunday seems to be saying that you have to leave that big bad world and come and give yourself to Jesus at Sunday worship to be saved.

On the other hand our Eucharist presumes that we have already given our selves to Christ. That is not necessarily true for every individual of course. The Mass then asks, or rather demands that we go and see Christ made manifest in the life of the world. Like the wise men from the East we can identify Christ for others. And hopefully that others will find revealed in us the light of the world as well. “Do this in memory of me”. “Go the Mass is ended”. Don't stay here content with our comforting ritual. Go!

Epiphany is a story of Christ being revealed to all the world, Jew and gentile, insider and outsider.
Fr Graham