Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany Year B Christ, the Light of the World

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Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany Year B

Reading 1: The word Epiphany means a great manifestation. What is this manifestation in the first reading? Isaiah prophesies that a light will shine over Jerusalem, dispelling the darkness of sin. It is the light of the glory of the Lord. Jesus is born as Savior of the world. He is the true light of the world, the light of Jerusalem’s glory. But it is the light of a star or a comet that leads to this revelation. This is the epiphany that we will hear in the Gospel.

As Isaiah prophesied, when the light appears “the wealth of nations shall be brought to” Jerusalem, “bearing gold and frankincense.”
Isaiah prophesied this to a people who had just returned from exile back to Jerusalem, which at the time was divested of its former glory and beauty. It was in ruins. He told them that what God had planned for them was something greater than their former glory.

Jesus is the glory of the Father, revealing the plan of the Father for his chosen people. In turn, his people were intended to become a light for other nations.  The people of Israel as they heard this prophetic message anticipated the coming of the Messiah. But when he came, they failed to recognize the light and chose to remain in darkness.  As a result, Jesus will later weep over Jerusalem, because of the future consequences of their failure to accept him as the Messiah.

Gospel: The first reading refers to a light shining over Jerusalem. Here that light is identified as a star, a natural light with a special purpose: to point to the true light of the world, Jesus.

The first to hear the Good News of the birth of a Savior were poor Shepherds, who were considered unclean and less than others. The revelation of the angels led them to the new born king and Savior. In turn, they gave praise to God.
But this Good News is not limited to one nation or people, but for the whole world.  Instead of the light surrounding a host of angels, wise men—non Jews—through a natural phenomenon, a new light in the heavens, eventually come to see and worship to the same Light of the world.

But a natural event is not enough to find the new born King.  Their inquiry led the Jewish scholars to find the answer to the coming a future king/Messiah in their own sacred writings.

Though they knew the truth, they did not act on what they knew.  But these Gentile seekers were led by a natural phenomenon to the written word of God to the Word of God himself. They offer him praise and adoration and gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah.

Once they encountered Christ the Lord and King, they were not the same. They had come on a long journey, but now they returned on a different way for they are now different.

Reading 2:  Paul makes the connection between Christmas and Epiphany. The shepherds represented the chosen people and the wise men, the Gentiles. According to God’s plan both are called to salvation. This is the mystery of the two feasts.

Paul’s understanding of this revealed mystery was challenging to those Jewish converts who believed that Gentile converts should first embrace the Mosaic laws as part of being baptized.  But Paul was adamant in proclaiming the truth. What was the truth? “Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” It is baptism that saves us, not circumcision and the Mosaic laws.  Our identity is rooted in being descendants of Abraham, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. The same grace of salvation given to the Jewish converts is given independently to the Gentile converts.  Praise God for his mysterious plan!

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