The Epiphany of Our Lord

8 January 2006: The Epiphany of Our Lord
Matthew 2, 1-12: Three Things: Faith, Priority, Gratitude

The Epiphany means God’s showing His presence to us. And we are asked to examine our lives through which we discover how God has been present to us throughout the year and how we have responded to his loving presence. We prayerfully reflect on our thoughts, feelings, and actions to see how God has been at work among us and how we have responded to His presence.

Second, we uncover those areas that need cleansing, purifying, and healing. We are inviting the Lord to search our hearts to the depths. Far from being dreadful, this is a scrutiny of love. We boldly speak the words of the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24). We ask the Lord to be present in those areas.

Without apology and without defense we ask to see what is truly in us. It is for our own sake that we ask these things. It is for our good, for our healing and for our happiness. We ask like the leper in the Gospels to be healed by Jesus, to be touched by Jesus, to be loved by Jesus.

And then, finally, we look forward to a new year with hope. We see our new year, not with pessimism, but with a renewed spirit to change our ways and to be more sensitive to the grace and presence of God in our lives.

First, let us have faith in God. Let me tell you a story:

Your Hut is Burning!

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to stor his few possessions. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived hom to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger. "God, how could you do this to me!" he cried.

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We say your smoke signal," they replied.

It is easy to be discouraged and to lose faith in difficult times. But God rescues us in ways we do not know. Have faith.

Second, prioritize. Know what is important to you.

What Matters Most

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks right to the top, Rocks about 2" diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them in to the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked his students again if the jar was full? They agreed that yes, it was.

The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. "Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize that this is your life.

The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed.

The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else. The small stuff. If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks.

The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, material things, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important. Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal." Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand.

Finally, as St. Ignatius would always emphasize the grace of gratitude. St. Ignatius believes that a grateful person will always heed the word of God. Just as the Magi had three gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh, we hear the final story.

Three Gifts

Three sons left home, went out on their own and propered. Getting back together, they discussed the gifts that they were able to give to their elderly mother.

The first said, "I built a big house for our mother."
The second said, "I sent her a Mercedes with a driver."
The third said, "I've got you both beat. You know how Mom enjoys the Bible and you know she can't see very well. I sent her a brown parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took 20 monks in a monastery 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute 1 million a year for 10 years, but it was worth it. Mom just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot will recite it."

Soon thereafter, Mom sent out her letters of thanks:

She wrote the first son: "Milton, the house you built is so huge, I live in only one room. But I have to clean the whole house. Anyway, thanks."

She wrote the second son: "Melvin, I am too old to travel I stay home all the time, so I never use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude! Anyway, thanks."

She wrote the third son, "Dearest Marvin, you were the only son to have the good sense to know what you mother likes. The chicken was delicious."

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