Homily – Feast of the Three Kings

The feast of the Epiphany or more, familiarly, “The Feast of the Three Kings,” is all about manifestation, which is the definition of Epiphany.  It is about sharing what one has seen and heard.

Pope Francis said as much in a January 6, 2018 homily, just one year ago today. I will use some of his key ideas and then go from there.  Francis said that there are three actions that these astrologers from the east accomplished that can “guide our journey toward” [God]. Another term used for these ancient visitors is, “The Magi,” a term referring to the priestly class, also meaning, “wise men.”  Francis goes on to say, “The Magi, see the star, they set out, and they bring gifts.” 

If we look to the Scriptures for today; we hear the prophet, Isaiah, proclaim, “Arise, shine, for your light has come!” And we might ask, “Who is this light for?” All of us, or just some?”

The writer to the Ephesians says basically that, Jesus is for everyone, no exceptions!  Matthew, in his gospel, the only one by the way who records this visitation of “wise men,” says that the Three Kings, “saw the star and followed it.”  Now this seems to be the connecting piece to the words of Francis—not only did they “see the star,” but they “followed” it—in other words, they did something!

Being a Christian, a follower of our brother Jesus is not a stagnant thing, but a state that calls forth something in return for the gift we have received with our faith.  We must respond by bringing our gifts to bear in our world.

Pope Francis makes a point of saying that the Star of Bethlehem was there for all to see and then he asks, “Why didn’t everyone see it?” He goes on to simply say and I paraphrase, perhaps those who didn’t see the star weren’t “looking up.”  Perhaps they had their eyes on the ground.

So, it would seem that being a Christian is not just something we say about ourselves, so as to claim credit, but something that we must act upon, knowing that it is not about gaining a reward, but simply about doing what is right and just and true—the loving thing, as Jesus always did.

Francis goes on to indicate that some didn’t see the star, even if they did look up because they didn’t know what they were looking for.  We have talked many times here about how we will find Jesus—God, in our world, always hopefully realizing that if we are looking for glitz and power, than we will miss Jesus.

From all the cards and art produced around the Christmas mystery, the Star of Bethlehem is always depicted as the brightest one in the heavens—perhaps, as Francis says, it wasn’t so “bright” as it was, “constant.”

In the terminology of astrologers, this Star of Bethlehem wasn’t a “shooting star”—one that dazzles and is quickly gone, but one that is more gentle, yet true and constant.  The pope compares the Bethlehem Star to how our God invites, rather than demands, a relationship with us.  Our loving God then promises to stay close—this relationship will never be fleeting as some other “stars” we may choose to follow: money, power, prestige.  They are more like “shooting stars”—here today, gone tomorrow!  Not so with our God!

Going back then to the three actions of the kings that we are to follow; we are told that after they, “see the star,” “they set out.”  In other words, they take a risk! Because after all; they don’t know where the journey will lead, they don’t know if it will come to a good end—only that they must go.  We often see this response to God’s call—this urgency.  We saw it in Mary when she hurried to visit Elizabeth during their mutual time of waiting.

If we are truly living our Christian calls to follow Jesus, we likewise must take risks.  We can’t wait for the affirmation of others to answer the call of our hearts to follow Jesus.  And from studying his life, we know that taking a risk won’t always be easy—we may lose friends and family, but we will know that we have brought the “gifts” that we have to bring to the “Christ Child” in all the places that we find “the child”—the poor, the lonely, the sad, the forgotten, the mistreated.

A final point that Francis challenges us with reflects the story of the Magi as we have come to know it—“they kept moving.”  The Magi, Francis says, “set out, went in and fell down and worshipped him, and they, went back.”  The piece we must understand is that their “setting out” once they “saw the star” had no ending, as our journey in the faith must be, in our life here.  We must be a Christian always, Jesus’ follower, every day, in every way.

With today’s feast, our formal Christmas time is over—the 12 days.  Now we must leave the relative comfort of the crib and continue “to see” and to do that which is ours to do as Jesus’ followers.  Amen? Amen!