HOMILY FOR EPIPHANY SUNDAY.
THEME: FIND AND SHOW JESUS.
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
HOMILY FOR JANUARY 7TH.
A man dies, and at the pearly gates, St. Peter asks him, “What is your religion?” The man says, “Baptist.” St. Peter runs through his book, and says, “You have a room on the fourth floor, but be very quiet as you pass by the ground floor.” Another man arrives. St. Peter asks the same question: “Religion?” “Jewish.” “Well, your room is on the third floor, but be very quiet as you pass by the ground floor. “A third man arrives at the gates. “Religion?” “Lutheran.” “Go to the fifth floor, but be very quiet as you pass by the ground floor.” The man says, “I can understand that there are different floors for different religions, but why must I keep quiet when I pass by the ground floor?” St. Peter explains, “Well, the Catholics are on the ground floor, and they think heaven belongs only to them.”
One real danger for us Catholics is to become exclusive in our view of religion. This attitude comes from the belief that we have the true faith, and so we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood. The early Christians must have taken this belief from the Jews, for most of them were converts from Judaism. The Jews were the Chosen People of God. And so, they naturally feel better than any race that does not belong to the family of Abraham. Many Christians have similar attitude until now, forgetting the fact that faith is a free gift from God, something they have not merited.
Yes, indeed, we Catholics have the true faith. But in the teachings and examples of Jesus, He has repeatedly made it clear that openness to other people is one basic rule. The so-called “outsiders” and “latecomers” – the Gentiles, the lepers, public sinners, the poor and social outcasts – are most welcome in the family of God. And that is precisely the meaning of the word “Catholic” – universal. The Catholic Church has her arms always open to welcome and embrace all kinds of people who believe in Jesus and follow his teachings. After all, this is God’s hidden plan, “as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth” (Eph 1:10). In accord with this plan, “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Jesus Christ through the Gospel” (Eph 3:6). God cannot be limited to any one religious tradition. Having the true religion helps, for it is the guarantee of the fullness of truth. But it is not the guarantee of salvation, for there are many people who possess the true religion but do not follow its teachings.
This is the important lesson of the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. Herod and the biblical experts who were guided by the light of Holy Scriptures were unable to find Jesus. It is because, although they were enlightened by the shining truth of revealed Scriptures, they did not follow it. On the other hand, the Magi found him. Though only the natural light of a distant star guided them, they followed its directions. What ultimately matters is not the possession of the truth, but how we are willing to follow and live that truth. It is better to have the flickering light of a star and follow it, than to have the bright light of the Holy Scriptures and ignore it.
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As Catholics, we believe that our religion possesses the fullness of truth. But of what benefit is it to us if we do not walk in the truth? In fact, we will be judged more severely because we already know the truth but choose to ignore it. On the other hand, judgment will be less severe on those who do evil due to ignorance or lack of knowledge. That is what Jesus said: “That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely…Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” (Lk 12:47-48).
Hence, faith is both a gift and a responsibility. It is freely given to us by God, but He demands something from us. Therefore, instead of feeling proud and superior, and treating other people who did not receive it as outsiders, we should be filled with humility, for we never deserve that gift. At the same time, we also ought to tremble with fear as we realize the tremendous responsibility of sharing this gift to others. This is what we see in the life of the saints. All throughout their lives, they remained truly humble as they struggled to fulfill their duty to spread the faith. In doing so, they also become the shining stars in the world, following the Lord’s admonition: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (Mt 5:16).
This is what the Feast of the Epiphany is all about. As Christians, we are challenged to show Christ to the world. This we do by following the will of God, obeying the truths of His teachings, and doing abundant good works for others. May the Lord help us with His grace to fulfill our New Year’s resolutions to become better persons and may we all become shining stars that will lead and guide other people to Jesus.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
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