The Epiphany of the Lord 2022: Bad Leaders Beware!

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?

The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God 2022.

Today’s homily is for The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, January 1, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here, and the mp3 can be heard by clicking here.

Merry Christmas to all of you. I hope you are still wishing friends and family a merry Christmas. As you know, the Christmas season lasts twelve days, so we’re only just over halfway through! Right in the midst of all this Christmas joy, while the rest of the country and the world celebrate New Years, we recognize that our new year has already begun! Our new year began on the first Sunday of Advent, November 28. So, this evening is not New Year’s Eve for us, but instead the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Today, we celebrate that God has a mother, and her name is Mary. 

The Gospel tells us that the shepherds went in haste to find Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger. I think the neatest thing about today’s Gospel is these shepherds. God gave the shepherds the message that the newborn king would be born and that they were to find him. And they did! And they told Mary and Joseph all about the message they had been given. It probably started with, “I’m so glad I found you! You’re not even going to believe this!” 

And the Gospel says that all were amazed at what the shepherds had shared with them. So God gives the message to the shepherds. The shepherds gave the message to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and they shared it with others who were amazed. And this story has been told over countless generations–the king is born. God has visited his people, born of a woman. 

Not only did God give the shepherds a message, God also sent the angel, Gabriel, to give Mary the message nine months earlier. God also sent an angel to give Joseph a message to not be afraid to take Mary into his home. You know, the Gospel writer wasn’t there in any of those moments–not with the shepherds, with Mary, or with Joseph–or even there at the manger when they all got together. The gospel writer heard what others had said about that night, and as hard as it was to believe, shared it with others, until someone eventually wrote it down as we have it now. 

Has anyone ever played that game “telephone” where a bunch of people make a long line and repeat a sentence whispering to the next person from one to the other, and by the time the sentence gets to the other end it’s an entirely different sentence? I’ve played that game too. You know some people say that’s why we can’t really trust the Bible, or even this story about Jesus and Mary. These skeptics, hard of heart, compare a game at a party where you have to remember some random sentence, to a message from God about the story of salvation! It’s a very poor comparison at best. 

A better comparison might be when I tried out for Marine Corps special forces. We started at 4am, and at almost noon, and with the finish line just 10 feet in front of me, I collapsed to the ground. I was delirious, with a 108.6 degree temperature, was packed in ice, and took six I.V.s. I almost died of a heat stroke, and after being rushed from Camp Hansen to the Naval hospital by ambulance, I regained consciousness and the only thing I could think about was if I had made it. Right then a nurse walked in and said, your gunny just called. He said you made it. Those were her exact words. Your gunny just called, he said you made it. I won’t ever forget those words or that moment for as long as I live. 

That’s the Bible. That’s the Gospel. That’s the word of God that was remembered and passed on from one generation to another. Not a game–but the very word of God that transforms lives. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. We should praise God too for all that we have seen and heard. The Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to God. Amen. Alleluia!