What Powers do We Serve?
Sunday Homily for January 4, 2009
Feast of the Epiphany (EpiphanyB)
By Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS
The Greek word “epiphaneia” means “appearance”
and in the western churches Epiphany
commemorates the appearance (or revelation) to the Gentiles of Jesus as Savior.
This is portrayed by the coming of the Magi or Three Wise Men
from the East to do Him homage.
It is an ancient feast: it is known to have been observed earlier than 194 AD,
and is therefore older than the celebration of Christmas.
“From you Bethlehem, will come a leader,
the one who is to shepherd my people.”
Yesterday, we saw Jesus as a Lamb, today we see him as a shepherd.
He is both lamb and shepherd,
just like he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,
the reconciled and the reconciling.
The reconciled recognizes and acknowledges the newborn king,
then goes all out in search of him like the shepherds and the wise men,
in order to do him homage and bring him gifts.
Jesus is the generous and extravagant gift of the Father to humankind.
And the wise men try to respond in generosity as well
in means and ways they know how.
This celebrates the supremely generous gift
that the Lord would give us, the gift of new and everlasting life.
Here is true wisdom at work.
Bruno Hagspiel quips,
“How does wisdowm grow? By simply saying ‘I don’t know’”
They were wise; but this did not stop them from asking,
or should we say, because they were wise they asked,
“Where is the new born king of the Jews?”
They were humble enough to ask and admit
that they did not know things they should know.
They were wise because they went out of their way
to seek the king and journeyed from the far east to Jerusalem –
a long and perilous journey.
Somebody said, “life is about asking the right questions
and getting the right answers.
And they arrived at the source of true wisdom: the newborn Jesus.
The light truly shines for those who keep searching.
This is the true wisdom that heeded the warning given them
not to go back the same way.
They were wise to change their way.
They were never the same.
“If we always do what we have always done,
we will always be what we have always been”.
Now, we turn to the other character in the gospel, Herod who said:
“As soon as you have found him, report to me,
so that I too may go and honor him”.
It seems to me this is a remark innocent enough,
but his true intention is maliciously cruel.
True reconciliation starts from the heart.
“The farther we speak from our mouth, the closer we are to the truth.
We tell lies without lips and speak the truth with our feet.”
Herod could not pay homage to the king of kings.
He is a king and any other king
is a threat to his kingdom, to his power, to his position.
He is so afraid, he is ready to destroy anything
and/or anyone that threatens him.
One of the papers I wrote during Philosophy was entitled,
“Man is a territorial animal”.
By nature, we define our territory, “our kingdom”,
“our boundary”, our comfort zones”.
And we defend these persistently and adamantly.
We have to be disturbed. We need to build fences.
We need to secure our borders.
We need to arm and defend ourselves.
“To have peace, we must wage war.”
Thus, we have the escalation of wars, proliferation of arms,
even weapons of mass destruction.
Recently, a confrere intimated that since we have a new provincial,
he feels uncomfortable whenever he comes around,
wary that the provincial might talk to him about change of assignments.
Unless we are careful, we too can have our kingdoms,
territories, comfort zones.
Oftentimes, real giving is offering more than we have.
Real gifts are self-gifts. It is called availability.
Real giving involves giving up.
Sometimes, the most difficult thing to do
is the right thing to do.
Even graces from God can disgrace us if these make us selfish,
when these become our security and make them our own,
our sole possession.
A lot of conflictual situations around us have to do
with territories and boundaries,
kingships and kingdoms, powers and comfort zones.
Once upon a time, two families came to a rabbi
wanting him to settle a dispute about boundaries of their land.
He listened to the members of one family as they recounted
how they had received this land from their ancestors
and now it had been in their family for generations.
They had maps and papers to prove it.
Then the rabbi listened to the other family.
Its members described how they lived on the land for years,
working it and harvesting it.
They claimed they the land intimately and that it was their land.
They did not have the papers to prove it,
but they had the calluses and sore backs,
and the harvest and the produce of the land.
The rabbi looked at them both and backed away from between them.
They turned on him and said, “Decide rabbi, who owns the land?”
But the rabbi knelt down and put his ear to the ground, listening.
Finally, he stood up and looked at both families.
He said, “I had to listen to both of you,
but I had to listen to the land, too,
the center of this dispute, and the land had spoken.
The land told me this:
“Neither of you owns the land you stand on.
It is the land that owns you.
Epiphany is about power and what power we worship.
There is the power of the word of God.
There is the power of Herod and nations
that only serves its own needs.
There is the power of kingdoms, territories and comfort zones.
There is the power of the child of the Star
who comes to liberate and free.
There is the power of extravagant generosity and availability.
There is the power of worship and pilgrimage
in search of the truth.
WHAT POWERS DO WE SERVE?