Homilies

Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6; Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12
Follow the Divine Signs with Hope

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of Our Lady of Lourdes – Singapore
on 3 January 2016

When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating God’s Incarnation in our humankind.  When we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord, we are celebrating God’s Revelation to all humankind.  And, when we celebrate Easter, we are celebrating God’s Salvation for all humankind. 

We also know that this year, 2016, we celebrate the “Year of Mercy”; we are celebrating God’s divine and unconditional Mercy on each and every one of us and the whole human race.  The word “Epiphany” means manifestation or revelation. 

Therefore, what is being revealed to the humankind and what we are celebrating today is that in God’s Compassionate Love and Mercy, He has come to save us and offer us eternal life.  Without losing His divinity, God has taken on the fullness of our human nature by being born in a stable through Mary as His Mother.  We will never ever know this divine Truth, unless this is revealed to us. 

Thus, on this Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord, the Good News that we are celebrating is that God has come to assure us that we are all not lost and lonely, not rejected, forgotten or abandoned.  On the contrary, God has come to reveal and assure all peoples that He feels our pain and knows our plight; He senses our suffering and sees our sinfulness.  Therefore, He Our Lord and Messiah has come to give us His Divine and True Hope.  In today’s First Reading, Prophet Isaiah says this about the Messiah, “Your Light has come . . . though the night still covers the earth and the darkness the peoples . . .”  How are we to experience such divine Hope, you may ask?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we come to Mass every Sunday to seek God’s Light and Strength.  For many of us we come to Mass even daily and pray several times each day for God’s Light and Strength.  Let us thank God for the gift of Faith, and not allow the discouragement and darkness of life to draw us away from this Divine Truth that God will never fail us, let alone forget or abandon us regardless of how helpless and hopeless we may find our life’s situation to be. 

There is a true story that happened in 1992 in Tennessee, USA to Karen. Like any good mother, when Karen found out that another baby was on the way, she did what she could to help her 3-year-old son, Michael, prepare for his new baby sister. 
Michael was very happy with the news.  Night after night, Michael would sing to his sister in Mommy’s tummy.  He was building a bond of love with his little sister Marlee before he even met her.

The pregnancy progressed normally and the labour pains came.  However, serious complications arose during the delivery and after a long struggle, Marlee was born, but she was in very serious condition and is placed under ICU.  As the days inched by, Marlee’s condition got worse.  The pediatrician had to tell the parents there was very little hope.  Karen and her husband contacted the local funeral director to prepare for the worst.  Their great excitement and joy of preparing a special room in their house for little Marlee now looks to be in vain. 

Michael, has now come to know about his sick sister.  He keeps begging his parents to allow him to see his sister.  “I want to sing to her,” he kept saying.  After two weeks of ICU the chances of Marlee surviving got even less.  Meanwhile, Michael kept nagging about singing to his sister.  Karen finally decided to bring Michael to meet his little sister even though kids are never allowed in ICUs.

When they arrived, the head nurse marched up to Karen and told her that Michael is not allowed into the ICU.  But, Karen ignored her and just said to her, “Michael needs to see his sister one last time.”  When Michael saw his dear little sister battling for life, he held her hand gently and with a pure-hearted voice of a 3-year-old, he sang: 
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray.”
Instantly the baby girl seemed to respond. The pulse rate began to calm down and became steady.
“Keep on singing, Michael,” encouraged Karen with tears in her eyes.
“You never know, dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.”
As Michael sang to his sister, to everyone’s surprise, her strained breathing became as smooth as a kitten’s purr. “Keep on singing, sweetheart.”
“The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you my arms”.
Michael’s little sister, Marlee began to relax as rest, healing rest, seemed to sweep over her. “Keep singing, Michael.”  Tears had now conquered the face of the bossy head nurse.  Karen glowed.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.  Please don’t take my sunshine away…”
The next day . . . the very next day…the little girl was well enough to go home.  Today, Marlee is 23 years old and she is as normal as any other girl.  The Woman’s Day magazine called it, “the miracle of a brother’s song.”  The medical staff called it a miracle; Karen calls it a miracle of God’s Love. 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, there is a tendency for us to lose hope when the trials of life like illness are prolonged; when the pain of relationships with family, relatives and bosses seem to worsen over time and when our financial needs never seem to stabalise . . . and the like.  The story of Karen reminds us that God who cares and cures, can work through our trials in life in ways that we least expect.  As Marlee lay dying and without hope, God used the most unexpected way of Michael her little brother of 3 years of age to bring about His divine healing. 

The miracle of Marlee recovering happened not just because Michael sang the song, but because God used Michael to bring healing, through the song.  God could have used the doctors and medical treatment to cure Marlee, but He chose to use Michael.  God’s Ways of caring and curing us is often a mystery and often come in ways that we least expect. 

But, one thing is clear; if we want God to work in our lives, we must never give up hope in Him who will never fail us.  Like Karen and her husband, we must always see that there is hope in life because God is REAL and He is God who has come into our lives and world to protect and care and ultimately SAVE us from all evil that exists. 

In today’s Gospel, God revealed the Mystery of His Saving Love of all mankind through the Three Wisemen from the East.  God protected the Christ-Child from the evil intentions and plots of King Herod to kill Him.  But, in order for the Wisemen to find the Messiah, they had to leave the comforts and luxuries of their palaces and instead face the terrors of the sand storms and biting cold of the desert, expose themselves to robbers, thieves and murderers, and travel in unknown territories and face all kinds of challenges over months.  They went through all these because they believed in the divine sign of the Star of Bethlehem . . . This star that guided the Three Wisemen is also the star of the Spirit that we can find within our hearts. 

And so as we conclude, on this Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord, like Karen let us always live in the True Hope that God is in our midst and is always there to care for us regardless of how dim and dark our life’s challenges may be.  The Three Wisemen believed and followed the divine sign of the Star.  And if we too dare to live in such True Hope with courage and determination, we will surely also find the Messiah in our hearts and homes. 

And, as Prophet Isaiah in today’s First Reading says, we too will experience the Divine Truth of the Messiah that says, “your sight will grow radiant and your heart throbbing and full . . . will sing the praises of the Lord.”  This is the grace and blessing that God wants to give you and me and all peoples on this Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord.  Do we dare to Trust God like Karen, and/or make the needed sacrifices to leave the comforts of life and courageously believe and pursue in the divine Stars of our lives that God will surely send us, as he did for the Three Wisemen? 

(Ref: Story adapted; Author unknown; submitted by Cindy)


Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.

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