Sunday, January 08, 2006

What treasure will you lay at His feet? (Epiphany Homily)

The feast of Epiphany is about Light;
we recall the star:
and the Wise Men, following it from afar.

Notice the Gospel calls them,
not “kings,” but “Magi.”
These Magi were considered “wise”
because they looked for
the deeper meaning of things.
That’s why they looked at the stars.

“Magi” is where the word “Magic” comes from!

“Say the magic word”—and a door opens,
a rabbit comes out of a hat,
and you make someone do what you want.

In a word: power.

So notice where the star led these Magi,
these powerful Wise Men:
to Bethlehem—no place powerful!;
to an ordinary home—not a glittering palace;
to a child and his mother!

What was the “secret”?
Not some spell, or magic wand,
but that the Creator of all things,
came to earth, as a child needing his mother,
a human being facing
the troubles common to all!

The power of heaven surrendered
to the powerlessness of ordinary human life!

How strange! How surprising!

But what do these wise and powerful Magi do?
They were not impressed
by Herod’s pomp and pride;
but, meeting the Child, it is there
they “opened their gifts,”
and laid their gifts at his feet,
and then, they laid themselves before Him!

How many King Herods there are,
that seem so impressive.
The Herod who pushes us around
at school, or on the job;
the pressure to fit in,
to meet a standard set by others,
rather than Christ.

Maybe the King Herod is us:
reacting with fear or anger
when we don’t get our way.

When we are impressed by the King Herods,
we miss the Light—or, worse,
fearing what others might say,
we don’t respond;
we don’t want to look ridiculous!

That image of the Magi,
prostrating before Jesus—
Reminds me of when I was ordained,
first a deacon, then a priest.
As the bishop led the “Litany of the Saints,”
My classmates and I
prostrated ourselves on the floor.
It was an awesome moment.
This is a powerful image
of what it means to be a priest.

To many, a priest can be a “magus”—
someone people see as a wise man,
with “secret knowledge” and sacramental “power.”

I have no “magic word”—other than Him.
Jesus: He is the “secret”;
it’s not meant to be “secret”—
except that many miss it. They miss Him.

What is a priest?

A priest is a man who does as the Magi did:
he surrenders all worldly power,
he brings whatever the world thinks valuable,
He “opens his treasures,”
and lays them at the feet of Jesus Christ.

Above all, it is his life—his very self—
that he lays at the feet of Jesus Christ.

A man doesn’t simply make some promises,
and take on responsibility for life.

A priest surrenders himself to Christ;
His very self is transformed.

It’s something like
what happens to the bread and wine at Mass.

It is wonderful but also frightening.
We know how a priest can misuse that Gift.
It fills us with sorrow and horror to think of it.

Still—it is an awesome Gift!

But doing this, becoming a priest,
to many seems a very strange,
even foolish, thing to do.

I had more money before I entered the seminary.
I’ll never make as much as I did then.

I worked in politics, as you’ve heard.
I’m proud of the work I did;
but that can be a heady experience:
you try to “make things happen,”
to see people defeated, or elected:
In a word…power!

It’s like the wizard of Oz—
behind the curtain,
pulling levers and pushing buttons;
it’s impressive;
maybe it works, or maybe it doesn’t.

And if we are not careful, at the end of our lives,
we may be wondering the same thing:
were we just pushing buttons and pulling levers,
making a good show—
but what value does it have, in the end?

A priest is a man who says, I want more!
And a priest gets more.

Like the Magi, a priest will travel however far;
he will bring his best gifts,
he will lay them at the Lord’s feet;
and last the priest lays himself down,
on his face: and he waits…
“Here I am, Lord. I am yours!”
Not everyone understands that.

It’s shocking, but true,
that sometimes parents, grandparents,
siblings and friends will discourage
a man from the priesthood.

“You won’t make much money”
“Isn’t that a hard life?”
“You won’t get married!”
“What about grandchildren?”

Sometimes, the discouragement is subtle:
when showing up for sports,
or school activities,
matters more than Mass,
or learning their faith.

You might wonder why
I’m speaking so much about the priesthood.

I hope we all know how much
we need more priests?
Very soon, St. Mary and St. Boniface will—
for the first time—share a pastor.
Yours truly.

I’ve given you full time the past six months.
That will change.

Yes, we have Father Ang, and Father Boeke.
I hope Father Tom will stay in the area.
But Father Boeke and Father Ang are 87!
Father Tom faces critical health problems.

We need more priests!

So here’s the question:
What are you and prepared to do about that?

Are there sacrifices in being a priest?
Yep—as many as you want!
Perhaps too much for some.

But I won’t promote the priesthood
as soft and comfortable:
we don’t need priests who want that!

This is “Vocations Awareness Week”—
but I’m here to tell you that from now on,
every week in Piqua is “Vocations Week.”

If you and I want priests in our parish,
what will you and I do to make that happen?

You’ve seen in the bulletin the prayer
I ask everyone to pray, very simple.
Five words: “Please send us more priests!”
I ask you to add them, at the end,
when you say grace over a meal.

In the vestibule, in the back and on the side,
you’ll find some booklets that look like this.

These booklets are from the
“St. John Vianney Vocation Society.”

Here are prayers you can use;
and it invites you
to commit to daily prayer for vocations,
and to a weekly holy hour.

I asked Craig Peltier
to serve on a Vocation Committee.
He agreed. He said,
“what do you want me to do first?”
First, I said, pray.
Pray that others will step forward.

Now I’m asking: will you step forward?

There are lots of ideas out there;
I need someone to make them happen!

If you want to help, call Craig, or call me.
If you are thinking about being a priest,
or you know someone who is, or should be!
If you have questions: Call me!

Epiphany is about Light—
not an obvious light that everyone saw,
but the Light that Christ
gives to those who seek him:
not in power and worldly glory,
but in hiddenness and humility.

Will you follow that Star?
And when you have seen Him,
what will you lay at his feet?

1 comment:

DilexitPrior said...

The end of your homily made me think of an article I just read recently published in our local archdiocese newspaper written by a local monsignor. It was about praying for vocations. He pointed out the good work that is done fostering vocations by groups such as Serra International but also pointed out that we need to make the prayers we pray for vocations specific and personal.

"Serrans pray for vocations in general without specifically including their own families. In other words, the encourage other people to send their sons and daughters to follow thecall of Jesus, but do they say "My God, I ask you to call my son or my daughter"? It might seem that they want God to give vocations to others, but not to their own."

Anyways, I think this applies to all of us who are praying for vocations. We need to have the courage to ask God in sincerity of heart to choose from among our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, grandsons and grandaughters for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

In my archdiocese we pray a prayer for vocations after the prayer intentions during Mass. We pray that God would "choose from among us many priests, brothers and sisters who would gladly serve Him with their whole heart" but I wonder how many of us are praying "choose from among us, excluding me and my family, many priests, brothers and sisters...."