Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
January 5th, 2014
Year A

I have always been intrigued by the figure of Herod – particularly the way in which St. Matthew portrays him in the gospel. History tells us that he was born in the late 70’s BC to an aristocratic family that converted to Judaism a half century earlier. In spite of his Jewish faith, Herod was raised a Roman. In other words, he was raised secular and was more Jewish in name than in practice. St. Matthew attests to this fact about the tyrant when he tells us that the king had to consult with the chief priests and scribes to ascertain the whereabouts of the newborn King of the Jews. As the king of the Jews – Roman appointed – you would think that as Jew himself he would have been a bit embarrassed to have to ask this question. But he is not embarrassed at all. It seems, then, that Herod is more concerned about his identification with Rome than with Jerusalem. As such, tyrant that he is, he will stop at nothing to secure his kingship.

We can compare Herod’s disposition to that of the Magi – the wise men. The word ‘magi’ originally described members of the Median and Persian priestly caste who advised kings and interpreted dreams. Matthew’s magi are astrologers – those who seemingly have more knowledge than others, like sages. Their appearance in Bethlehem indicates that these men, indeed, were quite knowledgeable. They were surely aware of the prophecy of a future king. They would have been looking for His star – the one that was foretold in Numbers 24 where the Moabite king, Balak, called upon his seer, Balaam, to issue a curse over Israel. Each time Balaam attempted to curse Israel, God intervened and he uttered a blessing instead. In his last attempt, Balaam prophesied that a star would be the sign of the great king’s arrival.

While Herod seeks to destroy this child and protect his throne, the Magi leave their thrones and journey from the distant East to adore Him. While Herod trembles in fear, the Magi rejoice and offer Him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold to honor His Kingship, Frankincense to honor His Divinity, and Myrrh to honor His mortality.

How interesting is it that St. Matthew offers such conflicting characters on whom to reflect. On the one hand we have Herod, who spent his life building his own kingdom. His rule was for his own glory and not for the glory of God. Hence, when Christ is born, he trembles in fear. On the other hand, we have the Magi, who do not fear the new King. Rather they rejoice to know that the Savior is finally here. Instead of hoarding and protecting their treasures they generously offer them to Christ as gestures of honor, respect, and allegiance.

There is, indeed, much to gain from reflection on these figures. It seems to me we can find many “Herod-like” folk in the world today. Many people who identify themselves as Catholic yet would never darken the doorstep of a church for Mass – or if they do it may only be twice a year. There are also those who do attend Mass regularly, even weekly, yet would rather identify more with the secular culture than with the Church (unaware that the Church is trying to save their souls). It is evident that what is most important to these types is not holiness, not salvation and truth but rather political and cultural progress. They are more worldly than spiritual. Then there are those who are more like the Magi who leave it all behind in search of a child. For them, nothing is more important than seeking diligently for Him the whole of one’s life and getting close to Him, touching His love and mercy in the sacraments. Here I often think of the Holy Father – popes past and current – who divests himself of everything, including his own baptismal name, in order to be identified with Christ and His Church. These are the ones who seek to be identified with Christ and nothing else. The first priority of their lives is for holiness, virtue, the proclamation of truth, and salvation.

Admittedly, it is quite difficult to pursue holiness, to be saints in today’s world. There is much out there to lure one away from God and the Church. There is the relativism of the day that denies objective and moral truth. There are distractions of all kinds: music, movies, games, and TV that keep us from being silent before God. There are conflicting notions of what the Church is all about. On the one hand there is the secular media’s view of the Church and then there is the true Church.
As I personally reflect on these readings, it is my hope that we will learn one thing from the Magi – that if we want to know Jesus, we have to seek Him and adore Him. The beginning of each year affords us the opportunity to reflect and take stock of the year past and look to what lies ahead. We will all make some sort of resolution – whether we admit to it or not. Perhaps we can add one thing to come here and spend time in adoration of our Lord in silence. We have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every Wednesday from 1pm – 5pm. Apart from that He is present behind the doors of the tabernacle. I often joke with the homebound and sick “have Jesus, will travel.” But for those who are capable, He waits here for you. He wants you to come and be with Him. Do not let the distractions of the world, of work, of school, of family, or of friends hinder your silence before God. He is here and waits for you. I know for a fact that those who seek Him will find Him – as did the Magi. In finding Him we will become more reverent in His presence, we will have a greater understanding of His truth, grace, mercy and love and we will draw closer to His heart. In this way we, like the Magi, offer our own gifts to Christ as gestures of reverence, honor, respect, allegiance and love. May this be what Magi teach us and may it become not simply a new year’s resolution but rather a way of life.








Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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