Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord, Year C
We honor this holy day, adorned with three miracles:
today the star led the Magi to the manger;
today water was turned into wine at the wedding;
today Christ desired to be baptized in the Jordan,
that he might save us.
—Antiphon for the Canticle of Mary from Vespers of Epiphany
So many themes for one feast! The Christmas season is of all the seasons of the Church’s liturgical year the most complex in its unfolding and the most rich in its history.
Think of your own life. If you were to go to a therapist to discuss your life and the decisions you must make for the future, you would spend a lot of time going over your childhood. Or better, think of your best friend who knows all about you; most of that is about when you were young. The knowledge and understanding of our early lives before adulthood is a precious treasure for any person. Events joyful or painful, encouraging or traumatic, have had a permanent effect on who we are and why we feel and react the way we do to life’s challenges and opportunities for good.
If a person avoids understanding himself in his early experiences—say from infancy to teenage years—he will certainly lack an understanding of his drives and desires, his hopes and fears. It’s really worth the trouble to meditate on the unfolding of our lives, to examine the persons, places, possessions, and happenings that have formed us. We should do this as a time of prayer, uniting ourselves to Jesus and Mary.
It would even be a good thing to use our rosary to meditate on the years of our lives. Take twelve decades, one for each year of school, add preschool and kindergarten, and you’ll get the traditional fifteen decades! We can ask Our Lady to help us see our life in a wise and grateful way. This will help us avoid pitfalls and to be encouraged by so many good things that have come our way.
We all have joyful, sorrowful, luminous, and glorious mysteries to contemplate in our own existence. When we do this in the company of Mary, sitting on her lap, looking at the picture album (that dates me doesn’t it?) of our lives, we will surely find consolation, strength, and insight.
Just as modern society was beginning to see the importance of childhood and memories of childhood as a important means for interpreting and directing human life, some theologians and Scripture scholars began to relativize and even debunk the Gospel accounts of Our Lord’s infancy as a non-essential—as later, popular additions, and so on. This, of course, had the same effect on theology and worship as when someone doesn’t value or think about his early life. The view of Christ that only wants to see him as an adult in the Jordan with John, or preaching, and not in the manger of Bethlehem and in Egypt and in Nazareth, is a distorted one, and is usually associated with some theological position that relativizes his full identity and the Son of God and Son of Mary.
Devotion to the Holy Child and the mysteries of Our Lord’s childhood is a sure remedy for the lack of confidence in his divinity and saving power that comes from the “mature” and “scientific” and “rational” canons of modernism. This is simply because if we see “our God made manifest” in the little child and the young man just starting out, we can surely recognize him in his teaching and in his struggles and will find it much easier to believe in his miracles and resurrection and glorious return.
This is no small thing. For if we take seriously the events of our young life and seek to understand them, we will easily see God’s loving hand and the designs of his providence—even if many things remain obscure to us. After all, we are co-heirs with Christ, sons and daughters in the Son. His beloved disciple tells us “to as many as believed in him he gave the power to become the sons of God” and this through the Word made flesh, a mere baby, of the Virgin Mary.
Pope Benedict XVI, in the third of his trilogy on the Gospel accounts of Our Lord, gives a thoughtful and loving defense of the childhood and youth of the Lord as being an integral part of the Good News. The numerous saints who were passionately devoted to the Holy Child are witnesses to this.
Today on Epiphany we celebrate our Jesus both as an infant and as full grown; an entering into his ministry, set on his future sacrifice. May Our Lady help us to meditate fruitfully on his life and ours and flourish in his service in this as yet new year of grace.