Saturday, January 5, 2008

Epiphany Homily

Gold, frankincense and myrrh, these are the gifts of the wise men from the East. Gold, frankincense and myrrh, we all remember gold, frankincense and myrrh. St. Matthew doesn’t tell us who the wise men were, their names, their countries, their reasons, St. Matthew only tells us their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. We want to dwell on their names, their number (was there really only three?) and tradition gives them names: Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar. But a question arises; why does St. Matthew withhold their number and names?

We must focus on the gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. We must focus on the response given to the greatest gift of all: Jesus the Christ. These wise men may not have fully understood Jesus as we understand Him after His death and resurrection, but they came to honor His birth. The wise men respond, they answer His birth with gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold honors a king, frankincense honors God, and myrrh honors the dead.

Gold honors the kingship of the Christ-child. Frankincense honors Jesus who is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. Myrrh honors the infant Jesus who will take the cross for His throne to suffer and die for the sake of our sins.

How can we imitate these Magi? How do we respond to the greatest gift from God: Jesus the Christ. How can we offer our own gold, frankincense and myrrh?

We can offer gold by making sure that our money is not our lord, making sure that our possessions do not possess us. We do this by our participation in the Sunday collection, in supporting the mission of our Catholic Church. We also do this when we give to the poor. We give from our wants so that others’ needs may be met. We say that Jesus is master of our possessions and so we part with them to more closely imitate Him who was born into poverty.

We can offer frankincense in our lives of prayer. We honor God primarily by our attendance at Sunday Mass and Holy days. We honor God when we receive communion in a worthy manner: do I attend regular confession, am I free from serious sin, have I fasted for one hour before Mass- refraining even from chewing gum? How do we go forward to receive communion is it different than the checkout line at Kessler’s? Are we nonchalant; are we forgetful that the same Lord Christ who was born in a manger to rise from the grave, this same Jesus now offers Himself to us in the appearance of bread and wine? Do we receive communion on our tongue or reverently on our hands- being careful to make a throne for our Lord in the Eucharist? Do we then return to our pew to pray as we are able? Do welcome Jesus not only with our actions but also with our whole being?

We can offer myrrh by participating in Jesus’ own sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary. Do we go to Mass even when we don’t feel like going? Do we try to honor our Father and Mother when it is most difficult? Do we pray for our enemies when our emotions would have us lash out? Are we ready to sacrifice our own ideas for the teachings of the Church? When we want to disagree with the Church on abortion, immigration, the death penalty, or contraception, do we offer up our preferences for Christ teaching through His Church? Do we allow ourselves to look foolish in the eyes of the world as we give up our very lives to Jesus Christ?

Which of these is the hardest for us to offer, the gold, the frankincense or the myrrh? Do we find it hard to tithe our income, to offer a fast before Mass, even from our chewing gum, to embrace the cross of Jesus Christ by doing the good we do not want to do? Which of these is hardest for us? God has given us an answer to the problems of life; an answer to sin, discord death, by giving us His true Son, Jesus. How will we respond? Let us begin today to respond to by imitating these wise men from the East, let us offer up what is most precious to us, our possessions, our power, our time, our minds, our very lives.

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