Steve Zwettler’s Homily from Epiphany, January 3, 2016

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Feast of the Epiphany

January 3, 2016

Homily

Steve Zwettler

 

  1. I do not write my homilies verbatim…….I speak from notes and an outline and allow for the free movement of speech to dominate.  The following is a close rendition of my homily for the feast of the Epiphany but it may lose some of its energy going from the spoken word back into the written word.  So be it.

 

 

Once again, welcome and good morning to all of you.  It is always so good to pray with you and to celebrate this Eucharist together here at Holy Wisdom.

 

I have always been a lover of wisdom sayings and one of the great resources full of wise spiritual sayings  is the Jewish Talmud.  A while back I came across this saying from the Talmud:  “What God wants is the Heart.”  So rich….so direct.

 

So, before I share a few thoughts with you I would simply like to ask what is in your heart today……….what do you bring to this time of prayer and Eucharist? The best liturgical prayer is when we all bring the depths of our hearts to worship and collectively give God what is deep within us.  So, today, I invite you to bring your hearts to the table and lift what is in your heart as an offering to our Creator.

 

Pause…….shift of thinking.

 

God is in the Stories.  God is in the Christmas Stories…….what great stories……light, stars, shepherds, camels, Wise Men, a stable, Jesus, Mary and Joseph running for their lives from Herod.  The Christmas stories are so rich.  God is in your stories and in my stories.

 

So, I have another story for you today.  This comes from the gifted and wise spiritual writer, teacher, speaker and Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr.  He shared this story in a small reflection entitled “Hungry and You Fed Me.”  I find it apropos for our feast of the Epiphany today.

 

Richard Rohr writes:  “Over twenty years ago, I was giving several weeks of retreats in India.  While there, I became very sick from some food I had eaten.  So they put a young Hindu boy in charge of me.  He was asked to care for me until I was nursed back to health.  The boy waited on me day and night, making sure that my every need was met and that my little bare room was kept clean.  All along, always asking me what I needed.  As I lay in bed I wondered how a young man could come to such love, deeply caring for someone that he never knew.  So one morning I asked him, “Who is God for you?”  As most people from Asia have great reverence for older people, he said very politely:  “Sir, I believe that whenever one person shows respect for another person, there is God.”

 

It was very clear to me that this very young man was filled with life and goodness.  He was filled with reverence and respect  for everything that was around him-even me a foreigner.  And it was in his respect for me, and I hope mine in him, that we both met God.

 

Today we celebrate the feast of Epiphany.  In Greek the word literally means “Manifestation” or revelation or shining forth.  It some countries around the world it is called “Little Christmas” and in others “The Gentile Christmas.”  It is a feast which proclaims that Jesus was not just for the Jewish Christians of the first centuries, those still connected to the Synagogue.  But as St. Paul reminds us, that Jesus was for the Gentiles also……….. for everyone, as represented by the Three Magi.

 

But I would like to propose today that Epiphany can and needs to be more than this-more than proclaiming that Jesus is for the Gentiles. This was a radical step in Pau’s time and a huge shift for the early Christian community, but I propose that we now at this time in our history take this great feast day a step further and say that Epiphany, or Manifestation, shows us that God shines forth-God is revealed-God is visible and is evident to us wherever people are searching for Love, Compassion, Light, Wisdom and Truth.  And that God is present in all religions of goodwill and loving compassion, of the world.

 

This Epiphany can be a time for us now to say that Jesus is the Light of the world-but not the only light.  If God is Creator of all, does it not make sense that there is Light and Goodness and Love and Truth in other cultures and other rich religions of the world, not just Christianity?  Epiphany is a time for us to say that Jesus is Manifested and Revealed for All-Jesus is Universal, but not Absolute!  I know this is challenging for us to hear but does this not make sense?

 

This way of thinking frees us from the restrictive theological thinking that says our religious tradition is the one only true way. This type of theology often breeds arrogance, violence, war, hatred-as has been verified down thru history.  This type of theology builds walls instead of unites people.  It is religious supremacy thinking such as this which creates havoc in our world.

 

The wise and holy Buddhist writer, Thich Nhat Hanh, in his rich little book, “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” says:  “Whenever we see someone, no matter what their religious tradition might be, who is loving, mindful, compassionate, caring and understanding, we know the Holy Spirit is there.  We know God is present.”  This is what Richard Rohr was speaking about in the opening story about the Hindu boy who nursed him back to health.

 

So…….as we being a new year-2016-I’d like to invite us to challenge ourselves to be wise men and wise women.  Let us journey with eyes searching to see  Light, to see  Truth, to see  Love, to see Goodness, —Wherever it is found and whatever name it carries.  Let this be the year that we live like Wise Men and Wise Women,  and are willing to go on the same kind of perilous journeys to find God, who is always present and freely given to all.

 

I close with a rich quote (from the writings of Mark Link SJ) from an anonymous Christian writer from the early Church who wrote this:  “When the song of the angels is stilled.  When the star in the sky is gone.  When the kings and princes have gone home.  When the shepherds are back with their flocks…….the Work of Christmas begins:  To feed the hungry, to release the prisoners, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace, compassion and justice to sisters and brothers, and to make music with the heart.

 

May we become Epiphanies this year of 2016—–manifestations of our God with us—-freely given for all—-here and now.

 

I wish you God’s Peace.

 

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