Epiphany of the Lord
St. Andrew's Cathedral

January 3, 2016

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“We are invited in this Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy, and on this Feast of the Epiphany, to a great journey, a journey like the Magi. It is an arduous journey, it takes much effort, and it lasts a lifetime. Yes, it’s a challenging journey. It is a journey that will turn the world upside down, for it is in the heart that forgiveness, mercy, compassion, understanding, and wisdom are born. These things often don’t make sense in the head. But they do in the heart."

~ Bishop Gary Gordon

My dear brothers and sisters,

    The three Kings. The Magi. The Wise Men.

    We sometimes wonder how it is that anyone would be so foolish as to follow a star rising in the east. It would never happen today. We’d check it out on the Internet first. But they are called ‘wise’. They were astrologers from the East. They’d spent a lifetime studying the constellations of the skies, looking for signs and portents. And so, observing a star rising, they set off on a journey to discover its meaning. It was an incredible journey for the times; there were no 787 Dreamliners then. It was a long, arduous, and most likely dangerous journey. And yet, they trusted. They hoped. They believed, and they set out.

    They arrive in Jerusalem, and seek information from King Herod. Where is the child who was born King of the Jews? We have seen his star rising. Where is this King? And the Scripture tells us that Herod and all Jerusalem is frightened. They had the knowledge, they sought the counsel of the Scribes and High Priests. They knew. They had the knowledge.

    And yet, they were frightened; gripped by fear. They lacked wisdom. They lacked trust. They lacked hope. The First Reading speaks to ancient Jerusalem: “Arise, a light is shining upon you in your darkness. Lift up your heads; the glory of God is made known.” And yet it takes not just knowledge, but wisdom, to see and to believe.

    We are all here today because of something called ‘wisdom’. Not just answers to the Catechism that we have learned, but wisdom. The wisdom to believe. The wisdom to set out in trust, as we live out this Christmastime and embark on this beautiful Year of Mercy with our Holy Father Francis. We are invited to a deep wisdom of God, of God’s favour on the earth—the wisdom of mercy and forgiveness which sometimes flies in the face of knowledge and justice. This is the wisdom we are invited to.

    And so as we celebrate today’s Feast of Epiphany, we see Jesus manifested to the world. And the wise—they come, and they bring gifts. In other words, they are completely trusting this newborn Child. They’re going to lay it all out before him. Gold, and frankincense and myrrh; and across town, in the palace of Herod, along with all the other palaces on the planet, there is fear and fright at what this newborn Child will bring.

    This newborn Child, Jesus, Prince of Peace, will bring a new way to peace. It’s called ‘letting go’. It’s called ‘forgiveness’. It’s called ‘mercy’. It’s called ‘not holding on’, like the Wise Men, who left everything at the feet of Jesus. This is wisdom. Since becoming Pope Francis, our Holy Father has been inviting the whole world and the Church to this kind of wisdom. A preferential option for the poor. A changing of our practices upon the planet, to safeguard the environment. A changing of structures and institutions and governments, so that the poor are no longer at the margin, but are at the center. This is the wisdom of the poor infant Jesus, whom the Wise Men recognized.

    Herod should be frightened, because Jesus is going to turn his world inside-out and upside-down. No longer will power, prestige, and wealth rule. Pope Francis said the same thing in his first Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. This is frightening. It is challenging. It’s challenging for all of us to know and embrace Jesus Christ as the way to peace and light and life. The stars still speak to us, and still guide us. There are thousands and millions of them. I know, in Victoria, you can’t really see them. But if you lived in the Yukon, you would see the stars, along with the Northern Lights.

    Brothers and sisters, there is indeed much knowledge on the planet. Herod knew a lot. But is there much wisdom? That’s the question. Wisdom to follow Jesus. Wisdom seek out the margins, and the peripheries, the poor. Wisdom to choose what God chooses. We are invited in this Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy, and on this Feast of the Epiphany, to a great journey, a journey like the Magi. It is an arduous journey, it takes much effort, and it lasts a lifetime. From our heads to our hearts. It’s only 12 inches from head to heart, but this is the journey we are invited to undertake. So that we may embrace who God embraces. So that we may love as God loves. So that we may have the wisdom of the Lord in our hearts.

    Yes, it’s a challenging journey. It is a journey that will turn the world upside down, for it is in the heart that forgiveness, mercy, compassion, understanding, and wisdom are born. These things often don’t make sense in the head. But they do in the heart.

    Finally, on this Feast of Epiphany, Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, is revealed to the nations. He has come for all peoples, not just the ones who show up at St. Andrews Cathedral, or in any other church on the planet. Jesus Christ is for all. He is Light to the nations. Just look around. Almost every nation, at least every continent of this planet, is represented here in our congregation. That is something. Jesus Christ is shepherd of the whole.

    This staff I’m holding is called a ‘Pastoral Staff’. It looks like a shepherd’s crook, and that’s what it is supposed to be. It’s a shepherd’s crook because it’s got a hook on the end. Do you know what that’s for? It’s not too hook people in! The idea is this: the lost sheep isn’t standing in the middle of the field, waiting! The lost sheep is down in the blackberries, down in the middle of a gully. And so with his staff, the shepherd can reach out and hook the sheep, and haul it to safety. That’s why the Pastoral Staff looks like a shepherd’s staff, complete with hook. Mine is made out of yew wood from Alert Bay. And on it is a symbol of Jesus, the shepherd for all the nations, in all the colours of the world: red jasmine, black jade, yellow tiger’s eye and white woolly mammoth tusk from the Yukon.

    But I’ve kind of got it figured out now: there’s no way on God’s green earth, or snow-white earth, that I can shepherd all 800,000 people in this Diocese. So you’re going to have to help me. You’re going to have to share in bringing the light of Christ to the nations. I’m counting on you and Christ is counting on you. Jesus is the Shepherd for all the races and all the nations, and we are invited to reveal him by our mercy, by our love, by our tenderness. Maybe sometimes, we need to reach out, stretch way out, and help the lost sheep.

    Brothers and sisters, on the Feast of the Epiphany, pray for the grace and gifts of wisdom. Not just knowledge, but the wisdom of the heart. The tenderness of the heart. The mercy of the heart. There’s a lot of people that are stuck in the blackberry bushes. They need you. They need your tenderness, your love, your compassion, so that the glory of God made visible in all peoples maybe known, served, and loved in the name of Jesus, Light to the nations.

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.


Postlude

    We are almost coming to the end of the Christmas season, so I want to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again, before it’s over. It lasts another week you know—it goes right through to the Baptism of the Lord.

    I want you to know that Fr. Dean Henderson is the Vocations Director of the Diocese for promotions and recruitment. And if you’re interested in going off to some far-off place, like Fort Nelson, you come and see him. Or, if you want to go someplace far-off, like Kyuquot, you come and see Fr. Dean. We’re trying to take care of a lot of people outside of the central areas. It’s called ‘the peripheries’, the geographical peripheries. So that everybody in our Diocese has the grace of the Sacraments and the proclamation of the mercy of Jesus, like what you have here at St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

    That’s my dream, and we’re working on that. You have no idea how I weep for the many places in our Diocese and many places in rural Canada that don’t have what you have here. So I gave Fr. Dean a big job: Recruitment. This is his job. Being the UVic chaplain provides opportunities to reach the hearts of young people for the great mission of Christ. Now I’ve raised the bar, Fr. Dean, and put the pressure on. You’ve got big shoulders; you can do it.

    Fr. John Laszczyk is also in charge of Recruitment here at the Cathedral. In fact, all the pastors have a big job to do. Just in case you think the stars don’t have messages, let me reassure you, they do. I heard the stars speak to me on a lonely road called Highway 7, in 1976. I was hitchhiking back from a village called Skowlitz, where I had been teaching Catechism; it was 11 PM and there was no traffic. I walked for seven miles (we counted distance in miles in those days). I was asking God if I should continue in the seminary. I didn’t know. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t know if I should stay, I didn’t know if God wanted me to be a priest. I remember standing there, in November, looking up at all the stars from my lonely spot on Highway 7. And I’ll never forget: they all shouted out at me, Yes!

    That’s a true story. I heard the stars, and they said Yes! And I’ve been saying Yes ever since. It’s not a bad word, you know. I hope you have the courage to say Yes, like the Wise Men, in 2016. Say Yes to your heart. Say Yes to the Lord. Say Yes to the poor. Because we’re going to have one really tremendous year in 2016, and you’re all invited to be a part of it.

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