Sunday, January 04, 2015

Are you leading others to Christ? (Epiphany homily)

The last few days, when I’ve been wishing people “Merry Christmas,” 
I have gotten more than a few odd looks. 
Why do I insist on wishing people “Merry Christmas”?

Because Christmas goes beyond just a single day. 
Many tend to pile all the features of Christmas onto one day, 
where the Church spreads them out over a couple of weeks.

Today we recall the story of the Magi. 
We often call them the “kings,” but the Gospel doesn’t say that. 
They were, in fact, priests. 
They weren’t Jewish, they were pagan, 
very likely from present-day Iran. 
And they studied not only sacred texts, but also the stars. 
That’s why they are also called the “Wise Men.”

The important question to ask is this: 
why does the Gospel of Matthew tell this story? 
Why is it important?

Matthew – who was one of the Twelve Apostles – 
wrote his Gospel with two big points he wanted to make. 

First, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, 
who was promised to the Jewish People. 

And the second point Matthew works hard to make 
is that the Jewish Savior isn’t just for the Jews, 
but for the whole world. 

All the world would hear about it; and it starts right here, 
when “the world” – that’s what the Magi represent – 
come in search of the Jewish Messiah.
So let’s notice how this adds to Christmas.

Christmas is, Jesus is born. God enters our world. 
The first light of salvation dawns.

But who is Christmas for? Not just Mary and Joseph. 
Not just the angels or the shepherds.

This is for the whole world.

One of the terms you may have heard once or twice 
is what Pope Francis calls “the new evangelization.” 
The pope and bishops have been talking about this for awhile.
The point being that there is a lot of our world 
that needs to know who Jesus is, 
and needs to come to put their faith in him. 
A lot of that “world” that needs it, 
includes folks right here in our own country; 
right here in Shelby County. Yes, even right here in Russia.

There’s been a complacency among Catholics 
in our part of the world for some time; 
we don’t think much about evangelizing; we don’t even like the term. 
To a lot of folks, that sounds like 
going door-to-door on Saturday mornings to pass out literature.

Meanwhile, our culture is going to hell. 
I don’t mean that figuratively. 
Our culture is quite explicitly rejecting the values of God 
and embracing the values of hell. 

So we can look down on those folks 
who come around and knock on doors, 
or who hold up signs at football games, 
but at least they feel the urgency. 

The Magi must have felt some urgency, 
or else why did they make that long journey to adore the child Jesus? 

And, more to the point, did they make a mistake?

After all, there are folks who say, 
oh, it doesn’t really matter what you believe, what your religion is. 

Well, if that’s true, the Magi were big fools. 
They could have stayed home!

Yes, there is an urgency to the Gospel. 
It leaps off every page, 
and we can hear it in almost everything Jesus says or does. 

When I was meeting parishioners last summer, many folks asked me, 
what are your plans? What’s your agenda for the parish? 
I was reluctant to get into that question at the time, 
because I was still get acquainted. 
It was important I meet you, and get to know the parish, 
before trying to offer anything like that.

But now I think I can offer an answer to those questions.

My great goal for our parish, 
which you will hear from me pretty often, is evangelization.

Simply put, it is my job – and your job – 
to make sure everyone we know, everyone around us, 
knows who Jesus is, 
and is given every opportunity to put their faith in him.

We start, well, with ourselves! Do you know who Jesus is? 
Do you know more than a few facts about him – do you know him? 
Can you honestly say that Jesus is a friend? 
Yes, he is our Savior, our Lord and our God; 
but he came to earth, as one of us, 
precisely so that we could also call him brother and friend.

If you’re not so sure you can say 
you have a close relationship with Jesus, 
then there’s goal-number-one for the year of our Lord 2015.

And then there is the task of sharing our Faith with others.

Now, let me explain just what I mean. 
To evangelize – to share our Faith – means a whole lot more 
than knocking on doors, or passing out literature. 
It can mean that; and there is a time for that.

But the main task of evangelizing is both simpler, 
and in many ways, harder.

You and I share Jesus with others 
when we share our own lives with them. 
Let me say that again, so it’s clear: 
we share Jesus with others when we share ourselves.

Or, if you like, let me make it a question: 
when people get to know you, how much of you shows them Jesus? 
If they come into your home, what will that tell them?
What will people learn about you, both in what you say, 
and more importantly, in what they see that you value? 
In the decisions you make?

When you and I live as Jesus taught…
When we speak his name 
as the most beautiful word in the universe…
When we give and love and forgive generously…
When we talk about him naturally, not in a forced way…
When prayer is something woven into our lives…
When Sunday is first-and-foremost his day…

Then we can be talking with our neighbors about cooking, 
or football, or the news, or the weather…but Jesus will be there. 

We don’t have to whack anyone with our bibles 
or lasso them with our Rosaries. 
We just share…ourselves and our lives. 

And if our lives are full of hope in Jesus, full of love as he loves, 
full of peace that comes from a fruitful sharing of the sacraments…

People will see something, just as the Magi did.
You and I will be the star, that leads them to Christ.


Jenny said...


Jennifer said...

Beautiful! I often think that my main responsiblity to my children is to lead them to Christ. :)