THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD YEAR B ON SUNDAY JANUARY 3, 2021 (R. 1: Isaiah 60: 1- 6; Psalm: 72: 1- 2, 7- 8, 10- 13; R. 2: Ephesians 3: 2- 3a, 5- 6; Gospel: Matthew 2: 1- 12)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
GOOD NEWS OR BAD NEWS!
Have you noticed the effects of the heat from the sun on different objects? The same heat from the sun that melts the ice comes in touch with mud and it hardens the mud. The same heat from the fire that softens the carrot hardens the egg. The heat is the same, the sun is the same, the fire is the same; it depends on the recipient. Similarly, the Gospel is Good News, but it depends on the ears that listen to it, and the heart that receives it.
Today is the feast of Epiphany; you can call it the Christmas of the Gentiles. It is the celebration of the manifestation of the New Born King to the Gentile world, or the non-Jewish world as represented by the magi. Today, the star led them to the little town of Bethlehem. When they found the baby, they were filled with joy, they abandoned their former religion where they worshiped the stars and they paid homage to the Creator of the stars. In their joy and happiness, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They brought gold to crown the King of Kings; they brought frankincense to acknowledge his divinity and to be used for his priestly functions, and they brought myrrh to acknowledge his humanity, which is destined for death and burial, after which he will be glorified in his resurrection and ascension.
The news and the sight of the Baby brought joy to them. Shortly before this, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people of goodwill.” Note that it is not “Peace to all people”, it is “Peace to people of goodwill.” The same good news, but it depends on the heart that receives it. The same news that brings peace will disturb others. It was the same news the magi heard and saw and they were joyful. But when Herod heard the news, today’s Gospel passage tells us that he was “greatly troubled.” The good news was a threat to his comfort zone, a threat to his authority and security, and a threat to his sense of self-importance; he was not ready to let go in order to let God, and so he faced his own doom.
This does not in any way imply that Jesus came to condemn sinners, he actually came to save sinners, and he came that all may have life and have it in full (cf. John 10: 10); yet, he does not interfere with the exercise of our freewill. He came as the Light of the world to reveal the secret thoughts and motives of all (cf. Luke 2: 35). He is the true Star, the light that will unmask and reveal everything, he will not be interested in “political correctness,” he will call things by their names, he will call a spade a spade, before him there will be no sitting on the fence, everybody will have to make a decision either to be for him or against him.
The nearer we are to Christ, the more we become aware of our sinfulness, and the result is either we become repentant and ask for his mercy and find peace in his pardon or we fight against it and we suffer. When Peter denied Christ, he did not know what he was doing, but when the light of Christ came on him, he realized his sin; he wept in confession, and regained peace. Judas Iscariot also sinned by betraying Christ, when the light of Christ came on him, he rejected that moment of grace, and he took his own life. It is the same light of Christ; but different responses, depending on the recipient.
Their encounter with the Holy Family changed the astrologers. They came as worshipers of the stars, but they left as worshipers of the Creator of the Stars. They came through one route but they went back through another route. No one encounters Christ and remains the same. They were led by the star, but when they met the creator of the stars, they were enlightened themselves to become stars to lead others to Christ.
That is the challenge posed before us as Christians. We are called to be evangelized evangelizers. Having encountered the new-born King, we have to become the stars that must lead others to Christ. We are called to do this, not only in the Church, but also in our encounters with people in our places of work, in our schools, on our play grounds, in the market places, on the street, and in our homes. Wherever people find us, they should always see in us, something that attracts them to Jesus Christ. We do not need to be perfect before we can lead others to Christ. According to Wilson Kanadi, “You don’t need to be perfect to inspire others. Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfection.”
May the light of Christ enlighten us, transform our imperfections to become agents attracting others to Christ, while we ourselves are not lost in the process, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.