Homilies

Epiphany
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3: 2-3,5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
God Manifests, Provides and Waits

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 8th January 2017

The word, “Epiphany” means “manifestation”.  This is a celebration of the Feast of the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.  In other words, “Epiphany” is the Christian celebration of the story of the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel through the Magi, on the last day of the Christmas season. 

The “Magi” were wise men; they were the priestly class of Persian or Babylonian experts in astrology and the interpreters of dreams.  The “Magi” also represent the Gentiles; the non-Jewish people who do not have the special revelations of the Torah.  However, using their expertise in astrology, God could lead them through the star as they searched for the “Infant king of the Jews.”  

In today’s Gospel that we just heard proclaimed St Matthew tells us that when the Magi “saw the star rising, they were filled with great joy, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees, they did Him homage . . . and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

We also know from today’s Gospel that in contrast, when King Herod heard of this “Infant Messiah” he was “perturbed” and instructed the Magi, “Go and find out all about the child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.” 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we know that even as both the Magi and King Herod said that they wanted to pay homage to the Infant king of the Jews, unlike the Magi, King Herod’s real intention was to murder the Messiah, instead of worshipping Him. 

We know that as we celebrate this Feast of the Epiphany today, the universal Church wants us to affirm the Truth that God wants to reveal, very specially today, the Truth of His Saving Love that brings Peace, Love and Joy into our lives.  However, sadly many of us are not able to allow this Light of Christ, to penetrate our hearts and dispel the darkness within us.  One of the reasons why the Light, Truth and Love of Christ cannot penetrate our hearts is because of the deep wounds that have within us. 

Fr Emiliano Tardif a spiritual writer who is very well known for the gift of healing explains that, “Many people think that to forgive is to lose. They don’t realise that it is the way to win a win-win situation, since it frees us of our hates and resentments.  Forgiving brings us nearer to being like Jesus, who loved and forgave his enemies, and opened up the pardon and the grace of God for us. 

Fr Tardif shares that one day I felt that the Lord was asking me to forgive a person who had done me a lot of harm.  As I didn’t want to give up the chance of taking my revenge, I put up a lot of resistance, and justified myself by saying: “Lord, why do you want me to pray for him when you are so good?  I am sure you will bless him anyway, even if I don’t ask you to do it.?’  In saying this, I clearly heard a voice within me that said, ‘Foolish man, don’t you realise that, in praying for him, the first to be healed will be you?’

To forgive is to revitalise the new life that Jesus has brought to every one of us.  To forgive and to ask forgiveness are like summer lightning that announces the long-awaited rain. 

This truth is also found in Evaristo’s testimony.  This is what he shares, “When I was small, I had a series of problems with my father that finally forced me to leave home.  I thought that time would heal those bitter memories of my childhood, but it was not so.  I carried the burden of those painful earlier years as I went through life.

God gave me the grace to discover the charismatic renewal, and through it He freed me from my bonds, giving me new life to my faith.  Yet, something was missing.  I didn’t have that natural, spontaneous joy that I saw all around me in the renewal community that I knew.  My life was bitter and boring.

The years went by, until in February of 1977, when my father became seriously ill, I knew that it was my last opportunity to make things up with him, but I had neither the strength nor the courage to do it.  On the 13th, as he lay dying, I was struggling with myself.  I knew that I just didn’t have the strength to forgive him. 

I started to pray, and said, ‘I can’t do it alone, Lord.’  An inner voice then answered me clearly.  ‘Alone you can’t, but in My Name you can.  Everything is possible for him who believes.’

With the courage of the Lord, I went back to my father, and hugged him, and forgave him from the bottom of my heart.  And not only that but, with tears in my eyes, I asked him to forgive me as well.

The face of my dying father seemed to transform; or perhaps what happened was that I was looking at him with new and different eyes, because the Lord had transformed me.  I loved him with the heart of Jesus, and embraced him with His arms.

Since that day, I have been singing a new song to God, a song of praise and joy that hasn’t ceased in the seven years since then.  The Lord has allowed me to see His glory, thanks to the inner healing that I received through this forgiveness.  Now I am really happy, and with joy I proclaim that the Lord has done wonders in me, and I give witness that now I can do anything through the One who gives me strength.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, today’s First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah says, “Arise, shine out Jerusalem, for your Light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising on you, though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples,” let us then allow the Epiphany and manifestation of God’s Truth, Love and Peace to shine through us daily.

And as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that like the Magi, may we continue to persevere with fidelity and courage, amidst the challenges we encounter in life and remain faithful to following the “Star” that God will surely provide for us in our life’s journey daily.  And if we should still have any unforgiveness in our hearts, as Evaristo had for his father, let us have the wisdom to allow God’s Spirit to heal us so that we will experience the grace of reconciliation that God wants to give us on this Feast of the Epiphany as Evaristo and Fr Tardiff experienced.  This is so that we too will all become God’s guiding stars for the many people that God wants us to lead to the Messiah that will bring our families, our Church and our world the needed Light, Peace, Love and Truth that our world of pain and suffering desperately needs.

(Ref.: Jesus Lives Today, The True Story of a Miraculous Healing Ministry, Fr Emiliano Tardif; 1989; Greenlawn Press; Australia: pp.109-111.)

 

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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