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Bishop's Homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany

January 2, 2022

[St. John Vianney Church, Kailua (Installation of Pastor)]

In this severely rainy weather, many people have very little shelter from the elements, and perhaps they feel abandoned and alone.  In the midst of this pandemic, many are filled with great fear that they or their loved ones will become deathly ill.  In this country that is so richly blessed with materials goods, we have one of the highest rates of suicides in the world.  As we go about our lives celebrating the holidays, perhaps a little restricted because of the pandemic, there are people in the world who only dare to celebrate these holidays quietly and underground, because if they did so publicly, then could be severely persecuted.  As we complain about the restrictions placed upon us because of the pandemic, others live with restrictions because their governments are oppressive or because they are the victims of human trafficking.  There is indeed much darkness in this world.

But today we celebrate the manifestation – or epiphany – of Light.  This is not the light that can be measured by the laws of physics, but the Light that is Christ himself.  We celebrate the event when Gentiles – those who did not live the faith in the One True God that had been revealed to the people of Israel – went to adore the King of the Jews.  They were guided to him by first being fascinated by the light of a star, and they tracked that star until it led them to the town of Bethlehem, a name that means “house of bread.”  There they saw not some creaturely light, but the Light from Light, the Word God uttered in the beginning when he said “Let there be light!”  They had to travel from a faraway place and did not know where they were going, but when they found Jesus, they rejoiced and gave him their finest gifts.

To the people I mentioned at the beginning of this homily, the people who live in so many manifestations of darkness, God longs to reveal his light.  But it is important to remember that the Gospel is never only about the past, it is the living Word of God that wants to take flesh today.  But those who are strangers to the Light need to become fascinated first by lesser lights that can lead and guide them on an adventurous journey to the One True Light.  And that, my friends, is us, who have already been blessed to see the Light that is Jesus.  We are Zion that is meant to shine in splendor.  We are Jerusalem that is to attract the nations and all its people to the Lord.  We are the stars God has set in his firmament to guide others to Jesus.  It is never enough for us to enjoy the delights of faith for ourselves, because if we keep them to ourselves, their luster will soon fade out.  We will become bored of our faith and drift away.  But if we realize we are called to be the only stars that can lead others to Jesus, we will work harder to make sure we shine with this Light that he is.  We will lead all to this house of bread, where we feast on the Bread of Life, if we shine for others by leaving our comfortable little homelands and journeying to those who do not yet even know there is the Light that can give them such joy.  This is, of course, what we call “evangelization,” and it is the golden gift that we present to the Lord when we share our faith with others.  This is what every parish is meant to do.  This is what every pastor is meant to foster.

Sometimes we hesitate to be the stars that lead others to Jesus because we know we could be rejected or criticized.  The current-day Herods jealously guard their own claim to be their own gods and will want to snuff out the true Light by their cynicism, biting criticism, or desire to kill of the competition.  But we still are sent because we know that this Light is the only thing that can truly overcome the darkness.  Sometimes we do not go because we cannot bring an end to the suffering others endure, but what we can bring is the Light that suffering and death are not the end of the story if we put our trust in God’s love.  We proclaim the Light who knew the reality of rejection and suffering, but who overcame them all in his resurrection.

There is so much darkness in the world.  But rise up in splendor, Jerusalem, holy people of God!  Our Light has come, and he is here as the Bread of Life to nurture us and to give us the energy to be the stars that guide others to him so that he can be manifested to them in the fullness of his love.