Homily for the epiphany of the Lord

We join the universal Church today to celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, it is one of the ancient holy day observed by the Church; it is a feast celebrated within the Christmas season. Christmas itself is an Epiphany, and the baptism of the Lord is also an epiphany. Epiphany is a word coined from two Greek words ‘epi’ and ‘phainen’, and can be translated to mean “to shine upon,” “to appear,” “to manifest”.

The Epiphany of the Lord therefore is a feast that celebrates the revelation or the revealing of Jesus Christ to the word. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ and at his birth the Angels of God announced his arrival to the shepherds, which is a form of revelation or the epiphany of the Lord. This revelation could be considered as private because it was revealed to the shepherds alone. His baptism is also a form of revelation because the Holy Spirit pointed him out for John and the whole world to see. However, when we celebrate the Epiphany, we take our gospel reading from Mt. 2:1-12. It is all about how the Father announced the birth of his only Son Jesus Christ to the world through the appearance of a star. The Three wise men from the East saw the star and recognized something special about it. Some others may have seen the same star but failed to look beyond the star to hear the voice of the Father announcing the birth of the Saviour of the world. The world is becoming very blind and deaf to the presence of God, even in his presence we question his existence. God no longer means anything to so many people, even if he exist he has become so slow to them. In the life of some people who are supposed to be Christians, some other gods have taken the place of the Almighty God; they now look for the gods and powers they feel gives instant answers to life’s challenges. The stars in the sky says nothing to them about the awesomeness of God, they see no reflection of God’s glory in created things. The world is becoming so secularized and far away from its creator, we fail to realize that he is the light that shines in darkness and darkness cannot overcome it. He is the glory of the Lord that has risen upon us as the prophet Isaiah prophesied in our first reading this morning, he is the light to show the nations the way.

We are challenged this morning to identify this light and follow it. The year is still very young and we have not travelled this road before, so we need the light of God to brighten our way; and Jesus is that light. We must recognise him and let him have his way into our lives.

We must not be spiritually blind like some of the Jews in Jesus time on earth, for while Jesus lived amongst the people and later stood with them at the river Jordan, they recognized him not, and John said: I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know (Jn.1:26). He was in their midst, but they did not recognise him. He is still in our midst, and the question we need to answer individually are; do I know God? He is revealed but can I recognize him? The Three wise men saw his star, recognized it and followed it till they found him. Let us also recognize him in our lives and follow him.

Today, we no longer follow the star but the super star, Jesus Christ. Apart from him we can do nothing, it is by his grace that we follow him. The Wise men were unable to reach him until they were helped by him. The star led them to Jerusalem but the word of God directed them to Bethlehem in the land of Judah where they found the Child and the Mother. The word of God had to be consulted and the word of God is God. In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God (Jn.1:1). The Wise men could not go further from Jerusalem, they needed a super star to lead them. They had to ask question; where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him (Mt.2:2).

When Herod heard that a king has been born, he was troubled. He had to call the Chief Priests and the Elders of the people and inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They consulted the word of God and they told him, in Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: And you O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel (Mt.2:5-6). The word of God led the Wise men to find the Child and the Mother. We must therefore learn to recognize, trust and hold unto the word of God who is God. Only by recognizing him can we trust and follow, to follow him can we shake the foundations of our enemies. Herod was an enemy of Christ, but when he heard about him he became troubled. So, recognize the word of God, trust the word of God, follow the word of God and you will not only find the Child and the Mother but you will also make your enemies troubled and gain eternal.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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