Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sermon for the Epiphany

Hans Kung story (true)- after Kung got into trouble with the Church a young Dublin priest and a fan of Kung, fresh from further studies decided to share his outrage with his Sunday morning congregation. He let them all know about Kung and how awfully the Church was treating him. After Mass he went outside to greet the faithful. Two old ladies came up to him, “That was a wonderful sermon, Father,” they said, “and we hope your Chinese friend gets better soon.” A lesson for preachers, and an invitation for you to pay close attention to the message of this feast. Three great events are celebrated today: the visit of the Three Wise Men, the Magi, the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan and the Turning of Water into Wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana. Its ancient name from the Greek is Epiphany from Epiphania meaning a revelation or manifestation. This is our true Christmas.
Three wise men follow a star and since then people have tried to figure out what kind of star it was. A meteor? Too quick, too frequent. A comet? All the world would’ve seen and recorded it. A supernova? As before and we would be able to see its remains in space. No one seems to think that the reason no one records such a star was that it was not a material star but a spiritual one. Already the grace and light of the Incarnate Word was reaching out into the world and calling hearts to Himself. Their spiritual eyes being opened they saw the light and came to find the new born King, the God-man, it heralded. They came searching and after encountering the darkness of Herod they found the light again and the One they sought, Who is both the Source and Object of the light. They bring gifts: gold for His humanity, frankincense for His Divinity and myrrh for the Sacrifice He will make.
At the Jordan Jesus comes to be baptised by John, a baptism of repentance, and He the spotless, sinless One. He humbly does this as a sign that He comes to cleanse and renew all those whom He will unite tot Himself by faith and baptism. This is affirmed by the descent of the Holy Spirit. Again only a few grasp something of what happens. Only a few have their spiritual eyes and ears open to sense the action of God.
At the Wedding Feast at Cana He turns, at His mother’s invitation, the water into wine and thus gives us the sign that He intends not just to turn the water of human love into the wine of Divine love but the intends to ‘transubstantiate’ creation (and above all us) into His Body, each nature according to its capacity. He will turn wine into His Blood and bread into His Body, He will make us one with Himself. He is the New Wine of the Kingdom.
What drives Him to these signs? It is the excess of His love what Gregory of Nyssa calls His Manikon Eros or ‘mad, crazy love’. Our mad, crazy God reaches out to us in love, to enlighten us not with earthly light but the Divine, Uncreated Light for He burns with the devouring fire (Heb 12:29)of His love for us. Yet He is so gentle that He, the Author, Creator and Sustainer of all creation, Heart and Source of the Universe, that He condescends to descend at our prayer, the prayer of a sinner, into the hands of a sinner for the sake of sinners, to humbly and gently turn bread and wine into Himself, His Body and Blood, and sits still in the Tabernacle, waiting on us, so that He can give Himself to us and unite us to Himself, and through Him to the Father. He wants to reveal Himself to us and set us on fire with love for Him and our neighbour. Ought we not to love Him?
Ought we not to enter ever more deeply into this Mystery that we celebrate here? Here the altar stands a little above and apart with the steps symbolising the holy mountain which the priest, as an icon of Christ ascends, as Moses did Sinai and Elijah Horeb, but above all as our Saviour ascended Tabor and Calvary so that the Divine Fire might descend from the Father, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ offered in an unbloody manner in the one, eternal sacrifice so that we might become whole. Here on the altar Christ is incarnate, here He ministers, here He is crucified, here is laid out in the arms of His mother and then entombed, here He rises and ascends to the Father, and takes us with Him, and here the New Jerusalem descends. But we need our ‘spiritual eyes’ opened to see this, as they were for the Magi, for John and for His Mother so we might see the glory and majesty of the Divine plan. We must ask Him to open our eyes so that we might see. We need to bring our gold, our frankincense, our myrrh, our water, our bread and our wine to Him, to the altar so that His fire can descend on them, so the offering can be made and God’s will be done.

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