Homily Feast of the Epiphany Cycle C January 6, 2019

After they departed from their country by another way, Herod came to find out about it, realized he was deceived by Three Wise Guys, went crazy, tried to have the child killed, instead the murderous deed was upon the other children in Bethlehem, and thought he was successful. He wasn’t. So much for doing homage to the newborn King. The Epiphany is far less about the crazy, out of your mind antics of Herod, and far more about Magi who travel through the desert with eagerness and love in their hearts. This is who we are as Christians who come here each week to do him homage, after traveling wherever this past week, and preparing to travel an upcoming week through the desert of this world, arriving here and leaving from here with hope and desire, I pray, as we do homage to Christ the Lord in word and Sacrament. The comparison couldn’t be more stark between Herod and the Magi, a starkness that deeply touches the entirety of our lives in personal ways. Herod is the image of concupiscence, that bad word that recognizes our potential to lose it, our potential to sin even after receiving the grace of Baptism and Confirmation. Whereas the flip side, the Magi are the image of carrying within our hearts the anticipation and deep joy of seeing Christ, here in word and Sacrament, experiencing his presence through the Spirit’s power. And then, as the Magi do, seeing Christ face-to-face at the end of our years. Today’s Gospel of the Epiphany of the Lord is so rich in symbolism, both for the good of our lives and the not so good. The Magi are the forerunners for all of us gathered here. They’re the exceptional example for all of us of Gentile stock who come to give thanks to God for opening up the way of salvation for this side group of people, not part of the original chosen people, a branch that has been grafted onto the tree of life, who can now travel the distance of our lives, and enter, at our final destination, the holy presence of him who is Christ. The Three Wise Men who covered the expanse of the desert with their food and water, under extreme conditions, conditions that mirror the major difficulties of our own lives, they set the pace and opened the door for us to go to a place that we Gentiles had never gone before. We all have much to be thankful for in our lives as we begin this New Year, but today we stop and take a moment to thank Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar for leading us to the greatest place on earth; before him who is Lord. The Magi are much like Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player in the major leagues, breaking the color barrier in that sport. He opened a door where thousands of others have followed. But he was the one brave enough to enter the desert, cross the desert during some very strong storms, and stay on the other side of the desert to break the color barrier in a major American sport. And his number “42” now hangs in every major league ballpark. The Magi broke the barrier of who now stands before God justified by our faith. They took some of Abraham’s spirit of faith, crossed the desert with it, and brought it before the real King. How can we not thank them? They set the pace, opened the door, and made possible through the favor of God the reality of spending eternal life with family and friends, and loving and doing good to each other in this desert crossing right now. As the Magi covered the expanse of the desert back then, how many times did they need to help out each other? How many times, in the name of friendship, did they pick up each other? How many small acts of love did they perform toward each other as they dealt with all the travails of a desert crossing on both a personal and communal level? By the time they arrived before Jesus and did him homage, their hearts were prepared for that holy encounter by way of caring for each other during the difficulties of a certain desert crossing. It was the treacherous times and coming together to care for each other during trying moments that fully prepared them to come face-to-face with Jesus. All the previous actions of love is what allowed them to recognize Him in the stable. That’s our fundamental calling as Christians who live our faith, and not keep it in a locked box, or strictly personal, as we like to say today. Before we come to see our Lord face-to-face, we prepare ourselves for that encounter that will surely happen – whether anyone believes it or not does not do away with the definite encounter – by way of continuous acts of love and concern for our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and those outside the Lord. The other choice is to be Herod, the evil choice, making it no choice for us. The Magi are the forerunners for us Gentiles to be able to offer acceptable homage to Jesus Christ. If that door was not opened for us, we’d be living in a world of squalor and concupiscence. The Magi opened for us the door of holiness, right worship of God and not inanimate things. They present to us the gift of understanding why love is the virtue to drive our lives, for it cancels a multitude of sins, and that love is the door that leads us to seeing our Lord face-to-face. Thank you, guys. You and Jackie Robinson did a great job. Pray for us that we continue to follow in your footsteps, leaving Herod behind, and coming before Jesus in true worship and grace.