Thursday, January 7, 2010

Epiphany Homily

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. It is typical on this solemn feast for us to focus on these three gifts and their important prophecy and testament. It is right for us to do so for these wise men acted under divine inspiration to present such a fitting offering to our infant King. In the encounter of the magi, Christ, the light from on high, is made manifest to the nations of the world. The Church also offers the Lord’s manifestations in the Jordan baptism and His first miracle in Cana.

Tonight I will direct our hearts to contemplate the gift that is given to us. Epiphany celebrates the rich fullness of our Catholic faith and the salvation of our Lord. Christ did not come simply to mechanically die and rise for salvation; Christ came to show us the true meaning of our humanity. Christ shows us the meaning of St. Irenaeus’ words “The glory of God is man who is fully alive.”

As Americans, cultural heirs of the Puritan and Protestant movements, minimized salvation dominates our imaginations. Our conception of the life of grace is reduced to legal guilt and innocence. The manifestation of the Incarnation reveals much more in the full Catholic vision of salvation: abundant life. That ancient homily of Athansius: “God became man so that man might become a God.”

Why else did God take on human flesh than to save everything that is human: our intellect, our wills, our imaginations, our play, our work, our family life—it was too little for God to simply save our souls. God the Father desired to save everything He created. The prophet Isaiah says: “It is too little, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

The ends of the earth pertain to the ends of your humanity as well. This is what Satan is most afraid of- redeemed and sanctified man, the man who is fully alive. This is why St. John Vianney was thrown all over his rectory. The personal path to this sanctity is the same as it has always been: the Sacraments, prayer, fasting, and holy works. What is different in our day is that the world is more openly hostile. Satan’s victory in the Reformation was twofold- the division of Christendom and the division of holiness from daily life. We see the second in the division in the relativism of the day.

So what is a family to do? First, pursue holiness within your own particular humanity. Jesus loves your humanity and wants to sanctify it in a personal and particular way. Second, we need to show forth this sanctified life to the world around us. I spent my Octave and New Years with 4000 college students living the Sacraments. There, Jeff Cavins, an author of Catholic Bible studies, told the story of his own conversion. Was it an argument, a passage, or his failings? No, it was the witness of his wife’s family as they prayed and played together as a domestic church.

In the Wedding at Cana, our Lord manifests Himself at our Lady’s request. “They have no wine,” is all she says. Wine is a sign of joy, giving warmth to men’s hearts. In a world darkened by sin, there is no joy where Christ is not present. They have no joy in our world today. They need to taste and sample the joy of Christian life, the joy of Christian families. Think of your own conversion, whenever the people of darkness encounter the joy of Christ, the world is transformed. You are called Christians for you are little Christs, by the Sacraments of the Church you live out His commission. Our Lady says to you, “They have no wine.”