Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord Sunday Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The King Who Cannot Be Deposed

The Gospel story today tells us of the visit of the Magi to the family of Jesus in Bethlehem. The word “magus” whose plural is “magi” in the old Persian language meant “magician”. It has been translated as “wise man”. The magi therefore were wise men from Persia or near Persia. Some scholars think that they were Persian priests of the Zoroastrian religion who believed in one God. Certainly they were not kings as most Christians think they were, as popularized by the song “We Three Kings of Orient Are”. In the Bible their names are not written. It is popular story telling which has appended to them their names.

These wise men, as our Gospel reading narrates, were looking for the newborn king of the Jews. Although they were Persians they had an idea that the king of the Jews was born somewhere in the land of Israel. And they came to worship him. They must have an idea that this king was divine, was God, because when they saw the child Jesus they prostrated themselves in worship and gave their gifts.

On the last Sunday of the liturgical year we celebrate the feast of Christ the king. If you notice the description of this feast the Christ here is the king of the universe, not the king of the Jews. We do not have a feast in our liturgical calendar for Jesus the King of the Jews, except a reference to this fact in the Passion Sunday when we celebrate Jesus’ entering Jerusalem as the King of the Jews.

Maybe it is time to pause and consider what this phrase means, “King of the Jews”. After all it is inscribed in many of our crucifixes, the INRI on top of the crucifix which is an abbreviation for Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum or Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews. This inscription was put there to tell the people that this was the crime for which a person was crucified. In other words for Pilate and the Jews they made it appear that Jesus was crucified because he claimed that he was the king of the Jews.

Jesus came to be the king of the Jews. The prophets foretold that a descendant of David would be born who would be king of the Jews. The Jewish people were expecting that a person would be born who, descended from David, would be their king.

And yet when Jesus did come the Jewish people in general did not recognize him as their king. It was foreigners from a far away land who recognized him as the King of the Jews.

The Jewish people rejected Jesus as their king. And until now they still do not acknowledge him as their king. The most positive judgment that they can give him is that he was a good man, not deserving of death.

But for us it is most important that we realize that Jesus is the King of the Jews, whether they know it or not. Why? Because Jesus is himself aware that he is the king of the Jews. He said that for this he was born. The magi were correct. He was and is indeed the king of the Jews.

The relevance of this for us is that Jesus is coming again to prove finally once and for all that he is indeed the king of the Jews. He in fact is the only king who cannot be deposed. His kingship is eternally secure.

Today we suffer the terrible effects of sin. We see hunger and gruelling poverty all around us. Terrorist attacks are being launched in many parts of the world. The condition of our environment is getting worse and worse. The waters are rising due to the melting ice. The air is suffocated with pollution. All these are the effects of the sin of human beings. Although Jesus has come and died and risen to redeem us, we still experience these effects of sin.

Those of us who care rightfully ask the question, When will all these evil things we suffer end? When shall we experience unending peace and complete prosperity? Politicians may be promising these things but we know from experience their promises will never be fulfilled.

All these evils will only cease when Jesus comes as king of the Jews and the Jewish nation will accept him as such. Paul writing to the Romans says this: “Brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery lest you be conceited; blindness has come upon part of Israel until the full number of Gentiles enter in, and then all Israel will be saved. As Scripture says: ‘Out of Zion will come the deliverer who shall remove all impiety from Jacob’” (11:25-26).

The Spirit of Jesus is working right now to win as many Gentiles or non-Jews to Jesus so that when all of them who need to be saved are in, then the Jews will acknowledge Jesus as their king and then all the effects of sin will be taken away from us.

Let us bow down our heads to pray.

Lord Jesus, you are our Lord and we acknowledge you as our king. We also acknowledge that you are the king of the Jews who have been expected by them. Hasten the day when they will so acknowledge you. Hasten that day because only then will our suffering completely stop and we shall fully enjoy the fruits of your redemption. Amen.

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