Homily for Epiphany 2007
January is a time when many people are on the move. Not just holiday makers. Job transfers, moving house, are a common part of January in Australia with the long Christmas holiday season. It can be very difficult for some as it means a great dislocation from family and friends and all that is familiar and secure. Others find it a welcome change and a new challenge to be take up with zeal. It is the beginning of a new phase of life. The motivation can be of necessity to fulfil a need or a dream. A dream for a better home, better job.
We know a lot about the stars and planets these days. There has been all kinds of speculation about the mysterious star of Bethlehem that the Magi, the wise men from the East, followed to find the child Jesus. The star is presented not as some natural phenomenon but as an extraordinary event. Certainly, in ancient times, the births and deaths of great people were often seen as accompanied by heavenly happenings. What we would call, comets, meteor showers, supernovae were signs for the ancients of important events. You remember the scene of Hally's Comet woven into the Bayeux tapestry as King Harold is crowned King of England. It is an omen of a disaster to come when William of Normandy, the Conqueror, would invade and conquer England later that year of 1066.
We take such celestial events for granted, and apart from a few astrologers, we do not apply any personal significance to them with our scientific world view. Furthermore, we are encouraged not to see any meaning in things, events and people at all. The universe is meaningless much of current thinking would say. Today we are estranged from the natural world in many ways compared with people in the past. However, for most ordinary mortals like us that is not good enough. We continue to look for and find significance and meaning in what goes on around us.
More symbolically, some see the star of Bethlehem as a reflection on the oracle of Balaam in the Book of Numbers (24:17) where we read:
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near --
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the borderlands of Moab,
and the territory of all the Shethites. (NRSV)
And again on the prophecy of Isaiah (60:1-6) which formed our first reading today:
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (NRSV)
While we do not take astrology seriously, as people of faith we do believe we can discern the hand of God in the people, places, and events of our lives. The Incarnation and our Sacraments which depend on the Word becoming flesh celebrate a view of life and the world that has a richness of meaning and purpose. Looking at life in this sacramental way we can follow a “star” as surely as the wise men from the East followed the star of Bethlehem. We are people who have seen that “star”, that “light in the darkness” and we do not want to lose sight of it.
Whatever the star we follow if it is done with sincerity and faith it always leads us to another person and ultimately Christ himself. Christ, of course, is always the risen Lord, the Christ present in the Eucharist, and the Christ which is His Body, the Church gathered. We will end up following the wrong star if we try to do it alone. We need to remain in touch with the Body of Christ through family, community, through the Eucharist. If we let ourselves be led by such a star there will be nothing ordinary in life, nothing mediocre, nothing in vain. All is a revelation of God's love. Every star in the night sky, and every face on the street, can be an Epiphany for us. Everything will lead us to Christ before whom we will do homage.
This weekend we farwell Kaylene Langford who is joining the National Evangelisation Team for 2007. Let us pray for God's blessing on her mission.