HOMILY – JANUARY 3-4
The word “manifest” can be either a verb or a noun. As a noun, we might hear it most often in reference to the cargo being transported by a ship, a plane, a train, or a truck. The manifest is the list of the various items of freight being hauled. It is useful for taxing purposes, as well as for gauging the weight of the load. I learned early on in my service as a police and fire chaplain how important it was to find the manifest in the event of a train derailment or a truck accident. I arrived one day at the scene of an overturned semi. A crowd had already gathered, and there was a lot of confusion. The driver had apparently crawled out of the wrecked cab, but we didn’t know where he was in all that crowd. “Father,” a fire captain yelled at me, “help us find the driver. See if he’s got the manifest, we wanna make sure nothin’s gonna blow up on us.” That was the day I learned: the manifest tells everybody what you’ve got.
An epiphany is a manifest – ation. It reveals what or who something or someone is, and what the attributes might be. THIS Epiphany that we celebrate today is God’s manifest to us and to the whole world. This is the day that God shows us what he’s got. And, oh my, what a Divine Cargo! God holds nothing back, at least nothing that we can begin to comprehend and appreciate while still in our earthly state. The Searchers, the Wise Men from the East, know very well that even their pagan books and traditions promise some rescue, some salvation from the infirmities of our human condition. A sign in the sky grabs their attention, and they pool their resources together to follow the Star, the Light of Christ, knowing that it must lead to Someone who is the hope of all the human race. They might hold very different notions of God or of divine power; but God uses their eager vigilance to lead them to his Anointed One. That process of conversion continues today, as people of all nations and backgrounds are led by various routes to the fullness of God’s life revealed in Christ.
There will always be those who can’t stand the thought of any competition in the face of their dream of world domination–especially competition from God. With Satan, the great tempter, leading the way, Herod, Roman emperors, Stalin, Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, a whole list of rogues litters the pages of history. Each of them bought into the evil of pretending to be the savior of the world, or at least of that part of the world which they deemed worth saving. They all passed out of the world in total disgrace. The True Savior is not found in places we might expect, but rather in the confines of a very humble life in the Podunk, the No-wheres-ville of his day. God shows us what he’s got by becoming one of us, no matter how humble our circumstances. God is not ashamed of tiny villages, stables, barnyards, and carpenter shops. He remains with us, in poverty as well as in palaces. And when God shows us what he’s got, he holds nothing back. In giving us his Son, he gives us Himself, totally and completely. “The Father and I are one,” Jesus will say. The Son of God becomes flesh, and yet the Trinity remains one and indivisible. Yes, it’s a mystery. God doesn’t even hold back mysteries, although our limited minds will have to wait until eternal life in the Kingdom for the rest of the story!
In our worldly ways and thoughts, we are so, so quick to take offense. It seems almost to be a new cottage industry, coming up with an ever new list of “THINGS WHICH OFFEND ME!!!” In the Epiphany, God shows us what he’s got for us. Lots of people imagine that God’s always watching, waiting to catch us in some error, deliberate or accidental, for which he can flick us off into eternal hell fire. No, that’s how WE are! Someone is rude to us, we go verbal. Someone is thoughtless toward us, we go postal. Someone cuts us off on the road, we go digital. It happens with nations, it happens with religions, it happens with co-workers, it happens with relatives, it happens with us. But it doesn’t happen with God. Does God immediately wipe Herod off his throne and off the map for his cunning and deceit? No. God’s mercy is manifest in his patience, his eagerness to give even the worst sinner chance after chance to accept his amazing grace, to turn from evil and do good. God never rejoices in the death of the sinner. He shows us what he’s got, and what he’s got is the divine desire to have us live with him forever. If we don’t, it’s completely our choice, and he’ll never deprive us of our free will. It’s an integral part of being made in his image. But God didn’t make us in order to satisfy a thirst to see us suffer. He wants only to share his joy and love with us, forever.
(– PAUSE SLIGHTLY –)
Epiphany continues. God is ever eager to show us what he’s got. (– PAUSE SLIGHTLY –) And the wise still seek Him.