The Epiphany of the Lord
January 3, 2016 – Year C
Readings: Is 60:1-6 / Ps 72 / Eph 3:2-3A, 5-6 / Mt 2:1-12
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Yesterday morning, I had the wonderful privilege to preside at the communal celebration of Penance here in Holy Name of Mary church for the children who received the sacrament of Confession for the first time. I was amazed to see their joyful faces before they went to the confessional, because a good number of Catholics feel that going to confession is pretty much like going to the dentist: It is not a pleasant experience.
Thanks be to God, we have a positive outlook on the sacrament of Confession here at Holy Name. Quite a few of the younger members of our church send me a text message, talk to me in the parking lot, and even approach me at the golf course, asking if they can go to confession. I attribute this positive attitude towards the sacrament to the example given to them by their elders: their parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, or anyone who is their spiritual guide.
At this present moment, we are all here, gathered in the sanctuary of Holy Name of Mary, because somebody in the past helped us believe in the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.
Today, we are celebrating the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord; traditionally, we also call this the Feast of the Three Kings. In the gospel today, we have heard St. Matthew the Evangelist relating to us the story of how the magi from the East followed the star that led them to the child Jesus, the newborn King. They experienced joy not only when they finally found Jesus in Bethlehem, but even while they were on their way, following the star. St. Matthew related to us that they were “overjoyed” at seeing the star.
In my homilies in the past, and I’ve been doing this for almost thirty years now, I have mentioned the influence of my grandmother in my spiritual life. She impressed upon me the importance of prayer. She did this, not by telling me (but she did definitely tell me all the time to pray), but because I could see that she was a happy person. And who doesn’t want to be happy?
So when I was old enough to realize that, just like everybody else, she had her share of life’s difficulties, I noticed that during her trying moments, she would go to the church, especially when no one was there. Or, if there were a lot of people there, she would pray in front of the altar at home. In our Philippine culture, almost every house has a small altar, the spot where we pray. When anybody in their house has a problem, they go to that spot. Or if there is tension in the house, at least one of them will be there, praying for the rest of the members of the family. She would just spend time in prayer, and afterwards she would be happy again.
I consider her as my star. Of course I have a good number of stars: my mom, my dad, my grandfather. Those people have been my guide, even now, long after they were born to life eternal, because I can still see in my mind’s eye the sparkle in their eyes every time they were at prayer.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, every time we celebrate the sacrament of Baptism, a star is born. When a candle is given to the child, the priest says: “Receive the light of Christ.” The child is being told to be the light of the world by the Christian life he or she is going to live.
The newly-baptized is surely too young to understand the words of the priest. That is why the parents and godparents and all the adults attending the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism are told that it is their responsibility to explain to the child, as he or she grows up, the meaning and the importance of the sacrament he or she received.
If the baptism is being held during the season of Christmas, I usually tell the parents and godparents that “You are the stars of this child, who will guide him or her to find Jesus in his or her life.”
By virtue of the sacrament of Baptism that we all receive, our Holy Mother Church is reminding us that we became stars in this world, as we share our faith with our brothers and sisters, most especially those who have forgotten that we have a God who is the way, the truth, and the life and who is going to give us life in all its fullness.
In the solemn blessing at the end of this Mass, we will be blessed with these words: “Since in all confidence you follow Christ, whom the magi sought when they followed the star, may God make you too a light for your brothers and sisters.” As we go forward, may we always have in mind that the Lord God is counting on us, because we are indeed His stars.