|SUNDAY HOMILIES FOR YEARS A, B, AND C|
|By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu cssp|
|Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord - based on the Epistle|
The Mystery of the Gospel
|Isaiah 60:1-6||Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6||Matthew 2:1-12|
Mark Twain used to tell a joke that he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did. So he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, a Presbyterian, and a Catholic, and hell broke loose. Mark Twain did not even bother putting together a Christian, a Muslim, and a Hindu. That was unthinkable in his days. In today’s world, however, it has become obvious that Christians live in the same cage, in the same city, in the same world, with people of other religions.
Today, the feast of Epiphany, we remember the Magi who came from faraway lands to worship the baby Jesus. They came guided by a star. Being nature worshippers who had no scriptures, God revealed Himself to them through the means available to them in their own religion. Through the stars they were able to learn of the birth of Jesus and find their way to him. They came as pagans, they worshipped Jesus as pagans, and they went back home as pagans. They did not convert either to Judaism or to Christianity. Their worship was acceptable to God and God directed them in their journey home through a dream. This shows that God does have a relationship with people of other religions who are neither Jews nor Christians.
There is only one God, and all who seek God with a sincere heart are led to Him, though they call Him by different names. One thing Christians have in common with members of other religions is that we all worship the same God. We all are children of the same Father. This truth is hard for religious people to appreciate because religious people all over the world tend to claim that they have exclusive access to God and the truth.
In the Old Testament, the Jewish people believed that they were the exclusive people of God. They divided the whole world into two: Jews who were the people of God, and Gentiles who were not. Some of their prophets and wise men tried to correct this belief by reminding them of the universal love of God for all humankind. But it was not until Jesus came that this idea began to sink in. As the letter to the Ephesians states, Christ made both groups, Jews and Gentiles, into one people and broke down the dividing wall of hostility separating them (Ephesians 2:14). This is the message of the gospel that God commissioned Paul to preach: “that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
Today’s second reading describes this truth as a mystery: “the mystery was made known to me by revelation” (3:3). It is a mystery for two reasons: (a) human reason alone could not arrive at such knowledge without the light of divine revelation, (b) even after the truth has been revealed it still proves to be an enigma or paradox to human reasoning. It is an enigma of the Christian faith that we believe, on the one hand, that the Jews are God’s chosen people and, on the other hand, that “God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35).
In the past, Christians tended to make the same mistake as the Jews of old by claiming that there is no salvation outside the church. Then Vatican II came along, the church opened the windows to the Spirit of God, and came to recognize that God’s truth is available to people of other religions, although not to the same degree that it is available in the church. The difference between the Christian faith and other faiths, therefore, is not that we possess the truth of God and they do not, but that, thanks to God’s unique revelation in Christ, we can know see God’s truth more clearly, love God more dearly, and follow God’s ways more closely in our daily lives. But we should always remember that if we go to sleep, even though we are on the better way, others who are on the not-so-better way could arrive at the goal before us. Let us reflect on this mystery today as we celebrate the Magi coming from pagan lands to worship the new-born Jesus while God’s “chosen people” in Jerusalem sleep unaware that the kingdom of God has come.
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