January 6, 2019
Notes for homily for Epiphany 2019
- FIRST SCENARIO. Kingdom of heaven vs. Empire in Matthew just as in Luke (Herod instead of Tiberius). The enormity of the violence portrayed in Matthew, with the slaying of the innocent babies in the attempt to kill Jesus, might be an exaggeration rather than a historical fact (just as the expression in Luke of “the whole world” being called to a census) but, just as in Luke, Matthew makes his theological point very strongly: the kingdom of heaven is the alternative, and Jesus is the alternative king.
- SECOND SCENARIO. All Christmas stories express the reconciliation of heaven and earth, between God and humanity, between the infinite and the finite. Angels sing that the glory in heaven = the peace on earth, etc. HEAVEN HAS DROPPED ON EARTH. THE GREAT LIGHT HAS SHINED. The accomplishement lies in the future, say the rest of the Gospels, as a result of the seeds planted by Jesus, the teacher of nonviolence. The days, the years, the centuries after the birth of Jesus remain an open-ended story. Now it's “ordinary time”...
- What is our role in the story? Isn't God just playing all the parts? Human beings are not made for laying passive, inert. We feel the urge, the desire, to be part of a large story. Our desire has cosmic dimensions. Anytime our life revolves around small things we wither, we get sad and angry. If my life is all about my career or even about my survival in a hostile competitive world (reasonable problems to be taken care of)... I feel lonely and diminished. Only when I perceive myself to be part of a large, even cosmic story... playing a small part, yet a meaningful part, then I am at peace. We may try to make our desire smaller and manegeable, but when we succeed we work for our defeat. We want universal love and cosmic flourishing. That's how we are made, with a penchant for the infinite. How can we make this desire, large as it is, fit into our lives without destroying them? How can the infinite live within the finite?
- The wise men from the East have something to teach us in this regard. They studied Scriptures which did not belong to their own tribe or nation. They were unafraid to look for wisdom where it could be found. More than anything, they were unafraid to move beyond the usual and the conventional and to trust their deeper intuitions. In the image from the Cathedral of Autun, the mystical and cosmic aspect of their journey is magnificently illustrated. An angel touches the hand of one of them, who wakes up first, and the angel points him to the star. They were not moved by the desire for power and control, like Herod. They were guided by a much larger desire, by their inner sense that life is an adventure of wandering and discovering new and unexpected meanings both in the treasures of knowledge stored by other people, and on the road!
- Our symbolic procession:
ONE. Recognizing the real king, much as we do when we bow to the cross. Humanity and divinity, the infinite collapsed into the finite. We recognize and adore the One to which we offer our best, our lives themselves, because we cannot be satisfied by anything smaller
TWO. We walk toward him, in life, as an open-ended pilgrimage full of mystery and discoveries, a mystical journey in which we discover the treasures in our own souls and we give them back to the Source of them all. AMEN.