Today’s homily is for The Epiphany of the Lord, January 2, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of this homily can be viewed by clicking here, and can be heard by clicking here.
Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. The infant Jesus makes his appearance to the world today. What stands out to me most greatly in today’s Gospel is King Herod, and his reaction to Jesus. Did you ever wonder what his problem was? Why didn’t he welcome Jesus? Herod was Jewish! He too was eagerly awaiting the Messiah, but instead of following the example of the Wise Men to seek the Lord and pay homage to the true and rightful king, he began to plot to have him killed. Well, Herod claims to want to pay him homage, but we know better, don’t we. And the Wise Men knew better too. What was Herod’s problem?
One of my favorite scenes from Scripture will go a long way to helping us understand the Gospel today. It comes from the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts, chapter four, Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin because they accused the Jews of rejecting Jesus, the cornerstone. In verse twelve they boldly proclaim, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” The leaders tell Peter and John they can go, but on one condition, “They must not speak or teach in the name of Jesus.”
Peter and John replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” Peter and John’s boldness, their strength and courage in the face of worldly leadership, and their unwillingness to cave to injustice, immorality, social pressure, and even fear for their own life is the very thing that made Herod so afraid! Christian courage! Christian boldness! That’s why Herod was afraid–because Christians aren’t. And we don’t serve an earthly king, or dictator, or president, or court; we serve the Lord Jesus. Period.
Listen, governments come and go. Empires rise and fall. Kingdoms with their kings and queens and princes have come and gone, but the Church remains. For two thousand years we proclaim Christ regardless of where we are, who is in charge, or what they think about it! Government is always trying to win a popularity contest. Those who govern the earth seek earthly power and earthly privilege, but Christians rightfully focus on the heavenly kingdom, what pleases the eternal God, and whether our actions are right–not according to laws or legislation, but according to our well-formed conscience; according to God.
That’s why Herod was afraid. That’s why bad leadership should be afraid! That’s why the Roman Emperors for 300 years put Christians to death, and dictators still do today, because Christians refuse to bend the knee to anyone but the Lord Jesus. Unjust leadership should be afraid, and unjust laws must be rejected. The Catholic Church continues to proclaim that all life is sacred and that the dignity of every human person must be upheld. We challenge abortion, assisted suicide, and the death penalty. We’re a thorn in the side of evil-doers! We participate in society and promote the common good–not the corporate good, but the common good.
Jesus showed us that every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to the basic needs of life, and we teach that every person has a duty and responsibility to help fulfill these rights–regardless of race, wealth, or political party, and that the basic moral test of a society is how the most vulnerable members of that community are doing–not the wealthiest and most powerful, how much a few have improved, but instead how the poorest are doing, and how their life has improved.
In every generation we honor the right to work, decent and fair wages, private property, and economic initiative. We believe in the unity of the family, that education, healthy food, clean air and water are basic human rights, and if they’re not good–well, bad leadership is going to hear about it. Was Herod afraid? You bet, and other bad leaders with him. The Magi saw it, Peter and John proclaimed it, and we believe it. There’s a new Sheriff in town. Bad leaders better recognize. Amen?