Homily Feast of the Epiphany Cycle A January 5, 2020

They traveled a great distance to help seal the deal. The “deal” began in the mind of God, if you will, reaching its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus. The “deal” was necessary after the calamity in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and his wife Eve messed up the previous deal called Paradise. A New Deal was needed after the garden fracas, and it didn’t come from Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This new deal came down from above in the birth of a child in Bethlehem from the Virgin’s womb.

               After this event was completed in a manger full of animals as the first worshippers, eventually being joined by some area shepherds told by an angel to go worship the child and tell what they saw, the next part of the story came from faraway visitors. The unexpected visitors.

               The shepherds were local Jewish shepherds. They watched their sheep all year, their one break from their labor being a short walk from their Bethlehem flocks to the Passover feast in Jerusalem.  The shepherds were of Israelite stock. Of the Chosen People. And they were nearby to all these happenings.

But the three who we cue in on today travel a great distance. They huff and puff it across the desert to seal the deal for the rest of humanity. Their trip across the highs and lows of barren land, sandstorms, as well as the heat of day and cool of night, finds at the end, not a refusal, but a welcome. Jesus came for the house of Israel, as he clearly says in the Gospel. “I have come for lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But there were a handful of non-Israelites along the way who caused the Lord to marvel at their faith in him. And the first Gentiles to show such faith, the first non-Israelites to marvel at this birthday present come down from heaven, were the Magi.

The Three Wise Guys, filled with untold amounts of wisdom, sealed the deal for the rest of us non-Israelites. Their efforts and determination to make it to their goal in Bethlehem, despite the deception of Herod – that was Herod being Herod – to prostrate themselves before this child, and their subsequent welcome by the child’s parents, these were efforts that went way beyond normal expectations under the circumstances.    

By sealing the deal of completing the mission they set out to perform, knowing ahead there would be obstacles they couldn’t predict, similar to our present journey, we rejoice in their successful mission. We rejoice in their Apollo 11. They were the first Gentiles to land on the moon of salvation. And we all benefit from their heroic flight.

The Feast of the Epiphany is a humble reminder each year that at one time we were outside the gates that lead to life beyond the grave. There was a large sign on the gate that said, “Gentiles need not apply.”

As Jesus himself knocked down some walls in his public ministry, such as curing on the Sabbath, talking to a Samaritan woman at a famous well, appearing on Easter Sunday first to Mary Magdalene and not his own Apostles, which would come later. As the Lord formed and shaped the world to God’s liking by way of mercy, moving the bad elements out of the way to make room for all that is good, so too have the Magi barreled through the storms of the desert and through the halls of Herod to seal the deal that has made us coheirs with Jesus, members of the same body, copartners in the promise of Christ through the gospel.

We now own the Gospel. The Good News. As Catholics who were once Gentiles; us Catholics who were once on the outside of this great story looking in; us Catholics who used to worship pagan idols of bronze, silver, and gold; us Catholics who used to worship our own bodies in sinful ways that this present culture sadly returns to, we are now inside the gates.

Please don’t take it for granted that we have entered through the gate of salvation. Rather, bring our Christian faith to every phase of our lives. Allow it to address every part of your life. Because those Three Wise Men went through heck and high water – or high sand dunes – to seal the deal that makes us coheirs with the Savior of the World. Their sealing of the deal, this trip across the plains, has ensured we will share life eternal with our loved ones. Their trip results in nothing less.

For the birth of our Lord in 2019, may we offer to him our own gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold is love, frankincense is peace, myrrh is mercy. In the spirit of the Magi coming to worship the newborn King, we bring these virtues to others, because we are now inside the gates of Jesus Christ.