Sunday After The Epiphany of The Lord 2018

Sunday After The Epiphany of The Lord 2018

By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Ordinary

Sunday 7 January, 2018

Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley

Below is the Homily on YouTube, audio and text version.

Press the play icon below to listen to audio podcast.

 

By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Ordinary

Sunday 7 January, 2018

Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley

Saint Luke tells us that Jesus was born in the reign of the self-described Caesar Augustus. He ascribed himself as being divine. But Matthew tells us that the wise men were looking for the divine redeemer of the world in the time of King Herod who claimed to be the redeemer of the children of Israel. Therein is the irony of these characters in whose reigns these events occurred.

Now these men were probably religious philosophers who were seekers of the truth. And their journey is really a reminder of the journey of Abraham who also travelled from his homeland to an unknown destination led by God.

Now these travellers, the wise men and Abraham are really symbols of all those that are drawn by God to enter in to a relationship with him.

In Psalm 72 which we just read, verse 10 describes foreign kings bringing gifts and falling prostrate before Gods king in Israel. One can see how these wise men morphed over time into kings in the tradition of the church.

Well whoever they are they represent the gentile people being drawn by Jesus, the true Israel, into the worship of Israel’s God. And Jesus would fulfil the mission that the children of Israel had been given but had failed to achieve, and that is to draw all men, gentiles, in to the worship of God.

Matthew tells us that they followed a star. Astrologists tell us that it might have been the conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars that actually occurred in 7 B.C. Who knows?

The point is that these followers headed towards Jerusalem, the city of God. The city of David’s throne. In order to seek advice. In other words, they travelled to the very centre of the people of Israel.

Of course, this was the obvious thing to do, to go to Jerusalem if they were looking for a new “King of the Jews”. What’s interesting about what they said, that they were looking for the King of the Jews, is that this wasn’t the normal description that the Jews would use of themselves. They always talked about the “King of Israel”. But the wise men said they were searching for the King of the Jews.

Now Matthew, in his Gospel tells us that this visit caused Herod “…and all Jerusalem…” (Matthew 2:3), to be disturbed.

The only other time Matthew uses this exact phrase is when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the royal beast of Kind David, on Palm Sunday. And the only other time Matthew uses the phrase, “King of the Jews”, is when Jesus faced Pilate and Pilate asked him if that was who he was.

These wise men and the stories surrounding them provide hints that Jesus is God’s redeemer. And they give us hints and shadows at how that redemption is to be obtained.

The message of these wise men caused Herod to be disturbed. In other words, he felt threatened. And like all threatened and self-centred individuals he reacted by destroying that which he saw as being the cause of the disturbance of his agenda. Namely he slaughtered innocent babies with the sword.

It’s no surprise then that the holy innocents in modern times have become linked to the tragedy of unnecessary abortion in those instances where pregnancy is considered to be a disturbance to the mother’s life.

But on arrival in Bethlehem the wise men are full of joy because they have found the one who has drawn them to himself. Here is God’s Messiah. The servant King. The good shepherd of all people.

And the wise men fall down. They prostrate themselves before The Christ Child. Not so much in obeisance of a greater monarch than they are. Not in humility or as an act of homage. But they fall down in order to worship.

Note the order. Worship first. And then they handed over their gifts. Ask yourself if that order has been reversed or one of the elements has been missed out in the modern-day celebrations?

The gifts of course that they brought were totally impractical. They didn’t bring casseroles, baby food or nappy wipes. The gifts they brought were gold, for a human king. Incense, for the divine god and myrrh for suffering and protection against death.

The fascination about the myrrh is of course that it was never used. Because when the women came to the tomb to complete the burial rituals on Easter day, when they would’ve used the myrrh, Jesus had been raised to new life.

So, life for us may be a journey not a destination. But the end of all our exploring is to share the risen life with The Christ Child that the wise men were drawn to worship.

Wise men still are. So, lets us thank God for them. And let them be our inspiration never to give up on our journey with and to The Christ.

 

Sermons List

About Author

Monsignor Harry Entwistle

Monsignor Entwistle is the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.