Sunday, January 07, 2018

'See the light--be the light' (Epiphany homily)

This is going to sound hokey, but: 
the title of my homily is: “See the light – be the light.”

We start with the Magi, these Wise Men, these seekers, in the Gospel. 
They saw the light. A star caught their attention, and they followed it.

God has a lot of ways to get our attention. 
It may not have happened to you, but it has happened to a lot of us. 
A lot of folks here can remember a time when God set them straight, 
turned them around, answered a prayer. You may not want to tell too many people, 
but you would even say, “yes, I heard words. I really did.”

I can say that; I will say that. 
When I was 19, I was in my first year of college, 
and I was at a point in my life 
when I was starting really to ask questions about God, 
about being a Christian. And I was going to a Bible study. 
And out of the blue, I heard Christ speak in my heart. 
I can’t really put it into words, but it was clear: 
he was calling me to follow him, 
just like he did with Peter and Andrew, James and John and others.

That’s what happened to me. Other people have different experiences. 
Maybe not dramatic; but one way or the other, God gets your attention.
For these Seekers in the Gospel, it was a star. 
They saw the light, and they followed it.

If you’re thinking, I’m not sure I’ve ever had that experience, 
that may be true. It hasn’t happened for you yet. 
But consider this: is it possible God’s been speaking, and you missed it?
Because a lot of times, we know what God’s saying. 
We aren’t ready to listen. 
To put it into the terms of this Gospel, who knows 
if many other people saw that star; 
but they didn’t do anything about it?
These Seekers did. 

So they followed the light, and it led them to the Light: the True Light.
They brought treasure; but indeed, they were led to Treasure.
Nothing they brought Jesus could equal 
what Jesus himself offered them.

So: here we are. We were led here today. 
Maybe your parents didn’t give you a choice.
Maybe it’s just habit.
But there are people here I know were determined to come. 
It fills me with admiration, because I know some of you 
have aches and pains and it’s cold; and if it were sleeting and snowing and blowing, 
you’d still be here! 

In 15 years as a priest, I’ve learned that 
no matter how bad the weather is – it could be “Snowapocalypse” – 
and there will be two or three intrepid souls in the pews on Sunday.
You know who you are. You are like the Magi, following the star. 
Remember, Jesus said: “Ask, and you shall receive!”

Seek the Light; receive the Light.

But now let’s notice what the other readings talked about. 
Isaiah told us that the Light would shine first on his people, Israel. 
But then, the light would shine to the world. 
“Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.
[L]ook about; they all gather and come to you…from afar.”

How does the Light reach the whole world? That’s your part, and mine.
The Wise Men in the Gospel did their part. 
We have no record of it, but tradition tells us 
they went from Bethlehem and spread the light.
They finished their time on earth and were called to eternity.

Likewise the Apostles, and those who knew them 
and heard their witness.
Generation by generation, the light has been passed to you.

Children, do you know what happened when you were baptized? 
The priest handed a light – a lit candle – to your godparent. 
And that godparent’s job, with your parents and family, 
is to get that light of faith into your hands, so it’s not theirs, 
but yours.

When I was a kid, I found my baptismal candle, 
and I didn’t really appreciate its meaning; I burned it up. 
I’m sorry I did that; I wish I had it today. 
It stands for the light you and I receive in baptism, 
and no matter what anyone says or does, 
nothing can put it out, Only you and I can do that.

And, thankfully, if we do, God gives us back that light 
when we go to confession. God wants us filled with light.
Each one of us is then that light someone else needs to see!
OK, so how does that work, exactly?

It isn’t something we “do,” like going to work, 
or completing our assignments for school, 
or even like coming to Mass each week.

Sometimes people will say, “OK I want to share Christ with others! 
So what do I say? I don’t know how to handle this or that situation! What do I do then?”

It’s not mainly what you say or do; 
it’s a matter of who you are.
To put it in theological terms, it starts not with our efforts, 
but God’s grace. 
Christ brings the light – it lives in us. 

This candle? This is me. This is my life, your life.
But the light? (Light candle.) The candle can’t do that for itself.
That comes from Christ. Let him change you. 

To our eyes it may seem small, maybe almost invisible.
Don’t worry about it. That’s God’s work. 
Be the light. Let it happen in you.
You and I will not know, until eternity, 
how even the smallest words or actions of ours 
can set great things in motion. 

When you are out and about, eating a meal, don’t be afraid 
to make the sign of the cross and say grace. 
It’s a small thing, but powerful.
We’re giving out blessed chalk today with a prayer, 
so you can mark your house as belonging to Christ. 
It’s a nice old tradition, and if you have kids, they’ll love it. 

It’s a reminder that each year belongs to Jesus:
This is the year of the Lord, 2018.

Small acts of kindness; everyday faithfulness, 
when witnessed by others, over time 
become a blazing sign of God’s grace.

You and I are here: we have followed the light, 
whether we knew it or not, here we are. 
Christ brought you here to change you.
To be light through you.

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Catholic Mission said...
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