The Epiphany – Homily
“Who will volunteer to sign this?” asked Miss Steele, showing her Sunday school class a sheet of paper.
“What’s it for?” asked one of the kids as several hands went up.
“Well, when you sign it, you will be agreeing to do whatever I write on the paper,” said Miss Steele. The hands promptly went back down. “It could be something like . . . mow my lawn, give me your allowance next week, come to a party, or maybe invite five people to Sunday school,” continued Miss Steele. “It might be something hard–or easy. But you’ll be glad if you do it. Now . . . who will sign this?” There were several giggles, but no volunteers. “Isn’t there anyone who trusts me?” Miss Steele asked.
Finally, Gina raised her hand. “I’ll sign it, Miss Steele,” she said.
After Gina signed her name, Miss Steele took the paper again and began writing. Everyone eagerly waited to see what she wrote. When she finished, she handed the paper to Gina. “Read it out loud,” instructed Miss Steele.
“Go to the table in the corner,” Gina read, “and pick up the Bible you see there. Whatever you find under it is yours to keep.” Gina jumped up and hurried to the table. “Oh-h-h,” she squealed as she lifted the Bible and uncovered some money. “Thank you, Miss Steele.”
“I thank you, Gina, for trusting me when no one else did,” Miss Steele replied. She smiled at the class. “When we give our lives to the Lord, it’s a little like signing a blank sheet of paper,” she told them. “We say, Lord, I’m surrendering my life to You. You write the orders. When we do this, God blesses and rewards us. Now . . . before Gina could receive her reward, what did she have to do?”
“Sign the paper,” said Amy, “even though she didn’t know what it would say.”
“And she had to do what the paper said,” Brent added. “If she had just read it but didn’t do what it said, she still wouldn’t have the money.”
“Right.” Miss Steele nodded. “She had to trust me, and she had to obey me–whether it was hard or easy. It’s like that in our relationship with God, too. We don’t have to be afraid to hand our lives over to Him. We must trust Him and obey Him. The rewards He promises are worth more than anything He asks us to do.”
(Story found on “Crossmap” Christian Website. Actual link can be found here.)
This story is similar to one I once heard where a disciple was journaling and in his journaling offering prayer to God. He offered God his money and felt God saying, “I don’t need that so I don’t want that.” He then offered God all of his possessions and God said, “I don’t want that either.” He offered his life and his vocation and God said, ”I don’t want that.” Finally, the man said, “Well, what do you want?” God said, “Take out a blank piece of paper. Sign your name at the bottom. I’ll take that.”
Scary isn’t it; leaving everything in the hands of God?
Father Ronald Rolheiser is serving as President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio Texas. In his reflection on this week’s Gospel, he asks, “What happens to the Magi after they left Bethlehem and returned home? The fact is, we do not know what happened to them afterwards.”
And that is exactly the point.
Their slipping away into anonymity is significant and instructive. His star has eclipsed theirs. They have placed their gifts at the feet of the young king and can now leave everything safely in his hands.
Let’s look at another version of today’s Second Reading from Ephesians 3:2-6, The “stewardship of God’s grace…given to me for your benefit; not made known to other generations – has now been revealed to us.”
To “BEHOLD means: “To see, to gaze upon, to observe.” and “To perceive through sight or apprehension.” Like the Magi, we are called to behold, to apprehend, to bask in the mystery, not to “do” anything. It’s unsatisfying. It’s uncomfortable. It makes us restless. But a big part of “signing the blank sheet of paper” is simply sitting within the presence of the Lord even when what HE is doing in our life at a particular moment isn’t exactly what we expected.
Maybe that is why the Catholic Church – every day – during Night Prayer (Compline) closes with the following prayer “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
To which I add a personal favorite:
O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.
Then, Lord, in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. (John Cardinal Newman)
Homily audio file here:
And some random thoughts and notes from this week:
The star reminds us that we’re on a journey, we’re not at the journey’s end.
See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines.
In moments of darkness, when we’re distracted, the star is there, the star still points to the King.
Raise your eyes and look about; you shall be radiant at what you see.
Watch the world running to walk in your light.