Sunday, January 3, 2021

HOMILY – Epiphany 2021 – A Closer Look


What a gift to have the Christmas star appear in night skies around the world days before Christmas 2020. 

Although we in the cloudy Northwest may have been deprived of this wonderous site, the star was seen all over the planet. The star actually was not a star at all, but the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn – something that hasn’t happened in 800 years. And a reminder of the star that may have guided the Magi over 2-thousand years ago.

The Magi were seeking a closer look at a prophesy they had studied for years. They wanted to see up close the newborn King of the Jews and present his family with gifts befitting royalty.  Gold for a King, frankincense (incense) for a priest, and the burial perfume myrrh for a man who would eventually die. These gifts were a prophetic sign of what was to come in the life of Jesus.

When we take a closer look at things we gain greater insight into what we are looking at. The Magi knew this and wanted a closer look at the long-prophesied Messiah.

Normally I do not use pictures in homilies, but thought it would help us to take a closer look at things. And perhaps in this closer look we might see the hand of the divine.

Last week as we celebrated the holy family, we heard God’s conversation with childless Abram. God told an old man his progeny would be as countless as the stars in the sky or the sand on the shore.

Have you ever taken a look at sand up close? Here’s what you would see if you did.    

This is what sand looks like under a microscope. The hand of God present in the billions and billions of once living things that make up sand on the shore. This picture may be an epiphany for some seeing it for the first time, creating new insight and revelation about what makes up sand.

How about we take a closer look at the stars in the skies? Thanks to the Hubble Telescope, we now can see an up close look at those billions and billions of stars in the skies.

And we might even see the hand of God in these pictures.

Literally, the hand of God. 

Or the face of God.

Or the gates of Heaven. 

Or the mind of Christ.

Or with an even more vivid imagination, the Virgin Mary praying in the heavens.

These are all actual photos taken by Hubble and give us an up-close glimpse of the heavens. When we take a closer look, we see amazing things and gain deeper insight and more meaningful revelations about our universe. These photos are an epiphany to scientists studying the universe.

Now let’s bring that look closer to home to see God’s hand present in our world today.

Nativity scenes were not common until St. Francis of Assisi. This up-close view of the birth of Jesus came about when Francis, a deacon, sought permission from Pope Honorious III in 1223 to rekindle the devotion to the birth of Christ by using a Nativity scene.

One must remember that the Catholic Church was riddled with scandal and turmoil when God asked St. Francis to rebuild his Church. His spirit-led creativity helped the common faithful to see the uncommon reality of the birth of our savior in a new way. A new, up close look at the reality that God became man in the child of Jesus the Christ. This was an epiphany 800 years ago and brought the faithful closer to God.  

In the week before Christmas, our outreach team got an up close look at something heartbreaking on a cold, rainy night. We met a mom living in her car with young children.

They were fleeing domestic violence. They were homeless for the first time. They were very scared.

After talking with the mom, our team decided to do something we normally do not do. We decided no kid should spend Christmas living in a car. So, we put them up in a hotel for 10-days.

One of our college student outreach workers volunteered to play Santa Claus and found out what the girls wanted and needed from St. Nick.

This outreach worker (with a heart of gold) said her family (a family that includes a mother who is a kindergarten teacher) wanted to take care of Christmas for this the unsheltered family.  

  Here are the gifts she got them – up close.

This family helping a family in need were joined by another family who bought clothes for the children.

It was a very Merry Christmas for mom and her children.

I would share the picture of the smiling children sent to me on Christmas Day, but due to privacy will ask that you see this picture up close in your mind’s eye.  I’m happy to report they are now in a domestic violence shelter in the area.

When we see things far away, we can miss details that provide us with insight and revelation.

Perspectives change when we see things up close. This view can create an epiphany.

As the Magi came bearing gifts, each of us have gifts to be shared … with God and with others.

Gifts are what we bring. Gifts are what we share. We all have gifts to share if we have the courage to open our hearts to see the reality of God, and the face of Jesus, up close.


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