C Cycle – Feast of Epiphany 21
Paul in our second reading today (Eph.3) tells us he was given by God’s grace the message of our place as heirs to the kingdom. That message at that time was a radical message because the gentiles were not included in the covenant God made with Abraham or Moses. Since we teach that God is all knowing it seems logical that the gentiles were always part of God’s plan from the moment Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden. It would also seem logical that God’s plan would have been to form a people and by their witness to God’s blessings create in the gentiles a longing or a desire to receive those blessings.
Paul, as a Pharisee, would have considered himself one of God’s chosen people. Being a Pharisee, he would have heard and read of all the prophesies about the coming Messiah and longed for his arrival. However, like so many of his time the Messiah did not look, act, or conform in any way to his concept of the Messiah. We also know from the scriptures how his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus opened his eyes to see and his mind to understand. Paul’s moment of faith when all the pieces of theology, scripture, belief, and revelation came together, and his faith moved from his head to his heart.
You need to stop and spend some time reflecting on this feast of the church for it to impact you as it did the Magi. Why were they the only people who grasps the moment God’s promise was fulfilled. Why with all the wisdom of the religious leaders of the church did they not grasp the meaning of the star? Perhaps they were not looking for it, while at the same time they were longing for it. Perhaps they wished for it but because it had been a long time since the prophesies, they had become comfortable with desiring it but not willing to consider it was happening at that moment.
The real question for us today is the same question Jesus asked Paul that day on the road to Damascus, why. Why have we failed to respond to the invitation of Christ and allow his death and resurrection free us to encounter God the Father’s love. With all we have available to us, the tradition, the scriptures, the teachings, the community of faith, the Wisdom of the Spirit and our own ability to reason are we unable to stand before Christ and offer him ourselves. God desires us to know the depth of his love, the power of his forgiveness and his desire to embraces us and dance with us. God does not want our time, not our talent, not our treasure, not our obedience to laws and rituals.
Those things are the things we offer the church and the community while we hold back our desire to feel what we all want to feel, forgiven and loves. Why Paul, why is the real question God is asking us today. Why are we comfortable with practicing our faith but not living it or allowing who we believe Chris is to impact how we live our lives? Perhaps the answer to that question is we need our own Epiphany, our own encounter with Christ. We need to respond to the same question as Paul, why with all we know, with all our exposure to teachings, to scripture, to the sacraments hold to a form of religion but deny the power of it (2Tim. 3:1-5).
Today when we attend church, we will get all caught up in the story of the three Magi. Their trip, their position as men of learning and wisdom, their humbling of self to stand before a baby and acknowledge he is the promised Messiah. Let us look beyond the story and grasp the full meaning of this gospel story. It is asking us are we like them or are we like the religious leaders in Jerusalem who knew their scripture, knew the promises of God, but were so busy holding to a form of religion they missed the reason the church existed. It was to prepare us to embrace him and then return to give grateful thanks and worship together to spread the good news, God is in our land.