Christmas IV – The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
2020 – Cycle ABC
Isaiah 60: 1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
We live in a period that some scholars have called Post – Christian. The term refers to the loss of Christianity’s monopoly on Western society and our primacy of influence in the public affairs of the world. Even among our own people, many Christians live out their lives on a mixture of individualistic and Christian ideals and various self-modeled moral views. We have found ourselves drifting in a profane societal sea which has assumed values, ethics and worldviews that are not necessarily Christian. The term “Christian” has been co-opted and deformed for political purposes by the Christian Right with its own litmus tests for candidates running for office having an odd twist of not necessarily being rooted in Gospel values.
Is there not for us Catholics a sense of disillusionment and defeat? Bishops no longer lead and have lost their credibility in teaching mired in the abuse scandal. Priests – are we trusted at all anymore? The litany of plummeting vocations, parish closings, church buildings turned into restaurants, gyms and libraries, congregations shrinking and greying, generations of parents and their children, though confirmed, no longer claiming Christian Faith except in its more thinly veiled forms, weddings that are a ‘destination’ which is not a church, are too familiar realities for us.
Now all this may sound very dispirited, but…
Into our midst today Isaiah tells us: “Rise up in splendor…the glory of God shines upon you! Raise your eyes and look about…” Look about? But what we see Isaiah is the light of the stars blocked by the smoke rising from the Amazon and Australia. What we see is the makings for war again, which on the First Sunday of Advent, you proclaimed would no longer happen. We see people all over the earth protesting and rioting. What we see Isaiah is glaciers melting and sea levels rising engulfing peoples, cities and islands. We look about and see not the wealth of nations but the poor and frightened of the nations poured out upon our shores and borders. Isaiah, we see ‘darkness covering the earth and thick clouds covering the peoples’.
And Isaiah counters, “You are correct. You see darkness. But I’m telling you that over that darkness God‘s light is shining. God has not abandoned you. My words are not deceptive or misleading. Therefore, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!…the glory of God shines upon you!
And see, there is the key for Isaiah! “The glory of God shines upon you…upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears God’s glory!” We are not the light. We are not God. But we do bask in the light of God and act as mirrors reflecting God’s light for other people to be drawn to God.
What we all are seeking today and what so many people are yearning for is hope. Isaiah’s words are not misleading but offer encouragement to us that God has not abandoned us but is Emmanuel, among us in the darkness.
Consider the magi. They have traveled a long unknown distance to what? To seek and lead others to a new born king; to new life. New life signaled by light, a new star in the heavens. There is anticipation and hope in their search. They are seeking something, someone greater than themselves. And do we not have that someone in our midst, Jesus Christ? Jesus, who in his passion and crucifixion entered the darkest parts of humanity to bring the light of the resurrection; the light of hope.
Isaiah invites to see with tired, worried, weary, often tear stained eyes the light that is reflected in our lives and in the world.
Consider the March for Our Lives Movement begun by our youth challenging our nation to address the root causes of gun violence. The Me Too Movement begun by women who will no longer allow themselves to be sexually harassed and abused. Fifteen year old Swede, Greta Thunberg speaking before the UN about climate change. Consider the protests in Hong Kong and India for freedom and religious diversity. Do not our hearts throb and thrill when we see people standing up for light against the darkness of violence, abuse, unbridled economic growth and prejudice, all at the cost of human life?
Isaiah invites us to look deeply into our lives and families. What is the good that is rooted in us that people who cross our path need to see? What is the hope that we have in Jesus Christ that we need to courageously, like magi, like a 15 year old Swedish girl, speak to other people that they in turn might have hope in their darkness?
This is Epiphany, a revealing of God in the darkness that sheds a light so people’s hearts will pulse with hope and rejoice in God’s presence among us.