Sunday, January 04, 2015

Sunday word, 04 Jan 15

Privileged Ways To Pay Our Homage
Solemnity of the Epiphany B (04 Jan 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. I suggest the magi who spoke those words are models for us. Let’s compare them with the one who first heard them. The magi’s words greatly troubled Herod the king. In Middle East cultures honor was central. A troubled mind and heart of a ruler threatened a ruler’s honor because a troubled mind and heart disrupted a ruler’s poise. If Herod did not carry himself honorably, it would affect the people. It did: King Herod…was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Why was Herod troubled? He was King of Judea. He knew he had no newborn heir. So the arrival of wise men from distant nations who had come to worship the newborn king of Judea troubled the already wary king.

Herod was wary because he was a puppet king.1 The Roman emperor crowned him and let him rule. He was not Judaean at all. As a result Herod had no idea he ought to have modeled himself after King David. David shepherded his people, guiding and encouraging them to fulfill their destiny. Their destiny was God’s purpose for them: to witness by their lives so the world might know God and enjoy a relationship with God. Of Israel’s destiny of service Prophet Isaiah announced: Nations shall walk by your light…they all gather and come to you…proclaiming the praises of the Lord. Of it the Psalmist sang: All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve Israel’s God.

Their witness was their side of the covenant. God pledged it first to Abraham.2 Jesus fulfilled the covenant so all nations are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

King Herod did not live the covenant; nor did he encourage those of his kingdom to live it. He wanted to cling to the power he had. The magi’s visit troubled him because it suggested a rival was near and would grow and take his power. To cling to power Herod summoned the magi secretly. Secrecy and honor did not harmonize in his culture. If people were seen to be honorable, others gave them honor. Honor was public; it was desired; and it was bestowed by others. Secrecy did not let people see another’s behavior so they could give honor.

The Wise Men felt the secrecy-honor disconnect when summoned by Herod. A heavenly light, available to any with vision, had set them on their journey to honor the newborn king of Judea. Nothing was more public than a light of heaven. Herod’s secrecy had no aroma of honor, let alone homage. On their journey they weighed Herod’s power-hungry request to return to him. Their dream not to return to him confirmed their choice to return home another way.

The Wise Men encourage us to consider the ways we notice Jesus present to us. The Wise Men encourage us to grow more alert to the ways Jesus accompanies us and leads us. The Wise Men encourage us to let ourselves be moved to honor our Savior Jesus on our life journeys. The two great love commands have pride of place among ways to honor Jesus: loving God with all we are; and loving others the way we desire to be loved. Our communal worship and personal prayer lovingly honor our triune God. Jesus warned doing that alone is empty show. We present true gifts at our altars of praise when we honor others and honor those in need with what help we can offer. To treat Jesus’ love commands as either-or options does not honor our Savior; to treat his two commands as either-or options does not allow our Savior to honor us as his disciples and friends. We honor Jesus by following him more closely. He is our Christian poise.

Our Christian poise, the way we carry ourselves as Jesus’ friends and disciples, gets rebalanced as we love others and care for them as we journey to God and honor God with our lives along our way.3

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the love of our triune God.
  • Ask the magi to present you to Jesus.
  • Look on him tenderly and speak to him: marvel that God was born for us; that Jesus continues to guide us; that Jesus deepens our desire to be his disciples.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as our Savior and to walk more closely his way.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ gave us his prayer to guide us daily to love God wholeheartedly. We demonstrate our love for God when we shower others with the love and honor we desire to be showered on us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. See the Encyclopedia Brittanica entry, Herod.
  2. Genesis 18.18-19.
  3. This paraphrases St. Augustine’s Tractate 17.9 on John’s Gospel.

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