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Bishop's Homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany

January 7, 2024

[St. George Church, Waimanalo (Opening of 70th Anniversary Year)]

We must never think of the Gospel as only something that happened long ago and far away that can teach us some lessons for today.  The Word of God is living and active, and the Gospel unfolds today, just as it did 2000 years ago.

Most of the world does not yet know Jesus Christ as its Savior and Lord.  Yes, they may know him as a personage from the history books, but they do not know that they can actually have a living relationship with him.  Like the Magi of old, they were not brought up in the faith of Israel and are not familiar with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son to be its Savior.  But there was a light that led the Magi to make their journey of faith, a star that guided them.  We are all meant to be that star for others, to fascinate them so much with our own relationship with Jesus that they will be compelled to follow his Way, to set out on a journey to discover him, to find him, and to worship him.  This is what a parish is meant to help us do, to energize the stars that we are all called to be so that we can go out into the darkness of the world and be a light that leads it to its Savior.

Along the way, there will be those, like Herod, who find Jesus to be competition to their own desire to be gods, and so they will want to destroy him.  What Jesus teaches about the dignity of the poor can be negated by those whose primary goal in life is to acquire wealth and property for themselves.  The wise, however once they meet Jesus, leave their gold at his feet, knowing that if they give it all up for him, he will provide for them abundantly.  What Jesus teaches about the value of marriage and the beauty of human sexuality expressed in the context of a life-long and fruitful union of one man and one woman, can be twisted and corrupted by those who think of these intimate unions as only for their own self-fulfillment and pleasure.  The wise give praise to God for his ways, trying to make their lives like fragrant incense that rises up to give glory to God.  What Jesus teaches about self-sacrifice, about laying down one’s life for others, is often opposed by those who view life only for themselves.  The bitter myrrh used for burial is avoided like a poison, while the wise know that it is in giving of ourselves that we receive, that in Jesus laying down one’s life is sweet because it ultimately ends in life in abundance.

As the star so long ago led the wise on a journey in which they came to know Jesus personally, so our leading of others, though it may have many twists and turns, is to lead them ultimately to this Bethlehem, this “house of bread,” so that here they can eat of the Bread of Life and live forever.  Then they, too, can go back to their own homes and themselves be the light that leads others to Jesus.

As this parish inaugurates the celebration its 70th year, the ancient story we heard today is the same story that led our ancestors in the faith to open their own coffers, and to offer their time, talent and treasure to build up this parish so that it could teach its members how to shine like stars in their families, workplaces, schools, and in the body politic to lead them to the Savior of the World, whom we physically encounter right here on this altar.  Like those ancient Magi, we must be wise enough to leave our comfort zones, and to set out into uncharted territory so that we may be the light that leads all the world to Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us.