3RD JANUARY 2021
THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
PSALM 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13
The main message today as we celebrate Epiphany Sunday is that God reaches all people to ensure that they all receive the good news of the birth of Christ. A long held Christian tradition show that the Wise Men might have belonged to the priestly castle of Zoroastrianism, which paid particular attention to the stars. This priestly caste gained international reputation for astrology, which was at that time regarded as a science. So these Wise Men from the East were scientists and practiced other religions, and God used their faith and knowledge to bring them to the Christ.
It is said that familiarity breeds contempt meaning that exposure to what is common and ordinary does not bring enthusiasm, does not motivate and is dull to the point that we see nothing new thus remaining ignorant and indifferent. We are familiar with our family members, our jobs, our weather patterns, our experiences, our faith, our liturgy. Does this familiarity stir up in us any zeal to see, to learn and to take the positive and necessary action that is needed? What new things do you see or can you see in your work as a parent, as a young person, as a medical practitioner, as a security expert or in whatever that you often do? The Wise Men were too familiar with the stars yet it is these same stars that God used to reach out to them to show us God’s intention of embracing all people. It is these familiar stars that God used so as to lead them to King Herod to the point that he becomes disturbed because he knows he has never been a leader of integrity.
From a manger, where a child lies wrapped in bands of swaddling cloth, we see that God’s reach, God’s embrace in Jesus gets bigger and better. How? Jesus eats with outcasts and sinners and touches the sick and the disabled and through him no one is beyond God’s purview and embrace.
God’s radical grace is wondrously frightening because if the Wise Men practiced another religion that is different from that of the chief priests and the scribes of the people, then this radical grace of God is meant to push us to expand our understanding of both the way God reaches out to people to announce good news in and through Christ, and what is meant for individuals to have faith and for gatherings of those who believe anywhere to be church.
If God’s radical grace is wondrously frightening then let us remember the workers mentioned in *Mt. 20:1-16* who were hired at different hours of the day but were paid equally at the end yet we thought that those who were hired early would be paid more as per common sense.
If God’s grace is wondrously frightening then let’s remember the disciples of Jesus in *Mark 8:38-41* who prevented a stranger from driving out demons in Jesus' name when they had earlier on been unable to drive out demons and Jesus tells them to leave the man alone because driving out demons is not a preserve of the disciples alone.
These two examples will help us see that the Wise Men did not come looking for the Christ through preaching, liturgy, sacraments or through an orderly congregation ,aspects that we hold dearly in our faith. They came seeking the born child after studying the stars at night. As people who hold on to favourite cherished ways that God works to proclaim the gospel and bring people to faith, are we wondrously frightened to realize anew that God’s own work of embracing us and all other people is more mystery than formula because God’s ways are always bigger than our understanding, or are we scandalized by God’s ways when Jesus allowed a sinful woman to anoint his feet and wipe them with her hair? Does this experience of the Wise Men mean that the traditional formulas or ways of coming to faith have no relevance?
It does not mean so but it means that our experience of God in church where we have the traditional ways of getting the good news that makes us see and be radiant and our hearts to be thrilled and joyful as the First Reading says, can also be lived, that is , encountered when the Spirit of God reveals the truth to us through the familiar or even the unfamiliar wherever we will be.
This new year we can be open to faith and life experiences that are outside our purview and control so that we can welcome God’s ever expanding grace and not to be enslaved by what we want to protect and preserve like Herod wanted to do.