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Homily for The Epiphany of the Lord

The Epiphany of the Lord

Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3; Matthew 2:1-12

Saint John Baptist de La Salle January 7, 2024

 

As a young boy growing up in a large family, especially when one lived in the country, was a lot of fun and there were always plenty of things to do. I had my own dog, Fluffy Puff was his name, my grandfather and uncles also had dogs that were fun to hunt and play with, and together those dogs and I had many adventures. When I left home to enter the seminary the dogs were left behind.

 

Years later, when I became pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Charlotte, friends of mine bought me a dog. He was a Scottish Terrier, a tiny puppy who would be named McDuff. McDuff was very affectionate, and I had to pull him away from my face just to limit his licks. He loved sitting on my lap for as long as I could stay still, and he never tired of being petted, if I were to skimp on that he would keep butting me with his nose.

 

McDuff would often stare at me with large, luminous black eyes, especially when I was petting him, or perhaps I should say that he gazed at me. I often felt that God looks at me through those same loving eyes, perhaps because McDuff was almost always with me when I was praying. This is also equally true of other creatures; we can see God in their eyes if we look. But few other creatures give themselves so readily to us as our dogs. Dogs seem content just to look upon us.

 

For me, dogs are an image of God’s love, for I know, at least in my head, that God looks at me in the same way. McDuff, of course, died many years ago, he was the last dog I would own, and I still miss him and his presence in my life. Sr’ Janis, however, would receive a tiny puppy as a gift a number of years ago. His name would be Tikkun, a Hebrew word meaning healer and I would get the opportunity to care for him and play with him at various times. Tikkun also liked to sit in my lap, and like McDuff he loved to be patted. He would look at me in such a way that you could not help but notice the love he had.

 

I also think it is interesting that we do not look at each other in the eyes for very long. Perhaps that’s because it makes us feel too vulnerable. If only we were as simple as dogs or as wise as God, then we too could gaze at each other in peaceful love and acceptance.

 

Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, God’s shining forth in the eyes of all people. The Magi followed the star, but I wonder which was brighter, more intense, the star or the eyes of the child Jesus?

 

If you have ever met a baby’s eyes, you know that they, like all innocent creatures, look at us with such trust, such acceptance. It is easy to sense something of heaven in their gaze. They say that our eyes are windows to the soul. If we could look into the eyes of other people, the way that we do with our pets and our children, what might we be able to see?

 

The Magi, in their dedication to the pursuit of wisdom, had surely seen the eyes of a child. They, like us, had felt something of God in the gaze of a baby. So, why is this such a shining forth, an epiphany of God? But that is exactly the point of my story. To look deeply into innocent eyes is to long for God. It is not, strictly speaking, to possess God. But today we remember that God chose to become one of us, chose to gaze upon us through the purity of a baby’s eyes.

 

Like a lover, Jesus claims us with his eyes. When as an adult Jesus began his ministry, what is it that made the difference between just being interested in people and his commitment to faith? What miracle or what preaching convinced people’s seeking hearts that they had indeed found God among us? What made people disciples of Jesus? Perhaps it was not wisdom or wonder that did the trick. Perhaps it was all in the eyes.

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