Readings and Homily: The Epiphany of the Lord

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Sunday, 8 January 2023
The Epiphany of the Lord – Mass during the Day.
Readings and Antiphons on p. 146 of the Daily Missal.

Entrance Antiphon.
Behold, the Lord, the Mighty One, has come; and kingship is in his grasp. And power and dominion.

First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6

A reading from the Book of Isaiah.

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.And nations shall walk by your light,
and kings in the brightness of your rising.Lift up your eyes round about, and see;
they all gather together,
they come to you;
your sons shall come from far,
and your daughters shall be carried in the arms.Then you shall see and be radiant,
your heart shall thrill and rejoice;
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

The Word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13 (R. cf. 11)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. All nations on earth shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

O God, give your judgment to the king,
to a king’s son your justice,
that he may judge your people in justice,
and your poor in right judgment.

In his days shall justice flourish,
and great peace till the moon is no more.
He shall rule from sea to sea,
from the River to the bounds of the earth.

The kings of Tarshish and the islands
shall pay him tribute.
The kings of Sheba and Seba
shall bring him gifts.
Before him all kings shall fall prostrate,
all nations shall serve him.

For he shall save the needy when they cry,
the poor, and those who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak and the needy,
and save the lives of the needy.

R/. All nations on earth shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.

Second Reading: Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians.

Brothers and sistrs:
I assume that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for you,
how the mystery was made known to me by revelation,
which was not made known to the people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
that is, how the Gentiles are fellow heirs,
members of the same body,
and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

The Word of the Lord.

Please stand for the Gospel.

Alleluia, Alleluia.
We have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship the Lord.
Alleluia.

Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea
in the days of Herod the king,
behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,
“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.” 

When Herod the king heard this,
he was troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him;
and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people,
he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 

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.’” 

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly
and ascertained from them what time the star appeared;
and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying,
“Go and search diligently for the child,
and when you have found him bring me word,
that I too may come and worship him.” 

When they had heard the king
they went their way;
and behold,
the star which they had seen in the East went before them,
till it came to rest over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star,
they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;
and going into the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother,
and they fell down and worshiped him.
Then, opening their treasures,
they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 

And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed to their own country by another way.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Homile

Jewish rabbis think that a star appeared in the sky at the births of Abraham, Isaac, and Moses.  

  • Similarly, in the Book of Numbers, the prophet Balaam speaks of “a star that shall come out of Jacob.”  
  • Stars were believed to be signs from God, announcing important events.   
  • Thus, the brightness of the Light to which Magi were drawn was made visible in the star they followed. 
  • In the last 40 years, some scientists and astronomers have pointed to particular clusterings of planets or stars around the time of Jesus’ birth, which would have created an unusual or dramatic heavenly “sign.”
    • It is possible that the star in the gospel of Matthew might be  historical.  
    • However, the star is more important because of its theological significance. 
  • Having the star guide the Magi to Jesus helps us to recall the story of Balaam in the book of Numbers. 
  • Balaam prophesied, “a star shall rise from Jacob and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel”. 
  • When Matthew wrote his gospel, he wanted us to understand  that Jesus was fulfillment of these prophecies.

Old legends tells us the names of the three wise men. 

  • Melchior was the oldest of the group, with a full beard. 
  • He gave the baby the gift of gold. 
  • Balthazar also had a beard, but was not as old as Melchior. 
  • He presented the gift of myrrh. 
  • The youngest of the three was Casper, who had no beard yet, but did present the gift of frankincense to the baby. 

“We have come to do him homage” are the words of the Magi to Herod as they enquired where Jesus was (Matt 2:2). 

  • “We have come to do him homage.” 
  • What a beautiful attitude the Magi had. 
  • They had love in their hearts. 
  • They had love for Jesus in their hearts. 
  • We see that again when they find the baby Jesus and prostrate themselves before Jesus and worship him (Matt 2:11). 
  • Then they expressed that love concretely as they offered Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh:
    • gold was a gift for kings, 
    • frankincense is an ancient air purifier and perfume, and was offered to God in Temple worship. This gift indicates the divinity of Jesus.  
    • myrrh was used by the High Priest as an anointing oil, and to prepare bodies for burial.  This gift prefigures  Jesus’ burial. 
  • We never again hear of these three gifts. 
  • These gifts were not only expensive but portable.
    • Perhaps Joseph sold the gifts to finance the Holy Family’s trip to Egypt.   
    • The gifts might have been God’s way of providing for the journey that lay ahead.
  • What is important is what these three gifts symbolized: the love in the hearts of the Magi for Jesus. 
  • We also see the love of the Magi for Jesus by contrast with the reaction of King Herod.
  • Instead of being full of joy like the Magi, Herod was troubled. 
  • The wise men showed humility before God as they travelled on their long journey hundreds of miles west to Jerusalem. 
  • By contrast Herod showed complete arrogance and hatred for God. 
  • He was told that Sacred Scripture foretold the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (Mic 5) and nevertheless he set out to have Jesus killed. 
  • What was he thinking? 
  • How could he be so arrogant that he thought he could destroy God’s plans? 
  • Unlike Herod, the Magi had love of God in their hearts.

Like the Magi, we also have love of God in our hearts. 

  • That love of God brought us to Mass here today. 
  • Interiorly we also prostrate ourselves before Jesus. 
  • We do not have gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to offer Jesus, but we do have a gift to give him:
    • the love in our hearts for him. 
  • The best gift we can give Jesus is the love in our hearts for him. 
  • The love of the three wise men for Jesus reminds us to ask ourselves if we always come before Jesus with love. 
  • We can ask ourselves if we do everything throughout our day with love for Jesus. 
  • If we do everything with love, it can be a gift to Jesus. 
  • If we do not do something with love, then it would be difficult to offer it as a gift to Jesus. 
  • Doing everything that we have to do throughout the day with love for Jesus would be a beautiful gift to give Jesus. 
  • Think of the experiences you have when you meet other people. 
  • Some people are a joy to meet. 
  • Some people are not always a joy to meet. 
  • What would it be like for Jesus to meet us? 
  • Hopefully it would be a joy for Jesus to meet us. 
  • If we love Jesus and do everything we have to do throughout the day with love for Jesus, then it would indeed be a joy for Jesus to meet us. 
  • Loving Jesus by doing everything with love is the best gift we can give him today.

We also love Jesus when we are kind to other people. 

  • Our kindness to others and our sacrifices for others are also gifts we can give Jesus today. 
  • Kind words to others, consoling others and being compassionate to others, being fair and honest with others, are all ways of loving others which are also ways of loving Jesus. 
  • So, we have many opportunities to love Jesus every day. 
  • We can love Jesus by doing everything with an attitude of love for him, and when we are kind to others we are loving Jesus.

“We have come to come to do him homage” said the Magi. 

  • They expressed their love of Jesus by giving him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

Our gift to Jesus is the love in our hearts for him: doing everything for him with love and loving Jesus by being kind to others.

From today’s Gospel reading:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,

in the days of King Herod,

behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?”

Reflection:

Where are we looking for Jesus today? Even if we had no other gospel story than this one, we should know where to look: among the newcomers and displaced; among the newborn poor and their families; among those who have no roots and are searching; among those pushed around by an uncaring system of laws and decrees.

So, we ask ourselves: 

  • Would I describe myself as one of the modern-day magi, a searcher for God?
  • How do I go about that search each day?

An 8-year-old asked, “How come the kings brought perfume to Jesus? What kind of gift is that for a baby?” His 9-year-old sister answered, “Haven’t you ever smelled a barn? With dirty animals around, Mary needed something to freshen the air.”

Communion Antiphon.
We have seen his star in the East, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord.

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