This is the story for those who miss the point. (This homily series rarely repeats itself but there is only one story that should be told on this festival, and that is the magical story of Babuksa 

Once upon a time there lived in Bethlehem a woman named Babushka. She kept the cleanest and neatest house in town and was also the best cook. She heard rumors of three kings coming across the desert but paid no attention to them because she had so much work to do. Then she heard the sounds of drums and pipes and a cavalcade of riders. She looked out the window and there were three richly dressed kings coming towards her house. They told her that they had come to honor the little prince who had been born in Bethlehem and they needed food and lodging. Babushka cooked a wonderful meal for them, remade all the beds, and wore herself out. The next morning the kings begged her to come with them so she too might see the little prince. Babushka said she would follow after them as soon as she finished the dishes. She cleaned the house again and then took out of a cabinet the toys of her own little prince who had died so long ago. She had no more need of them and would give them to the new little prince. She put them in a basket and sat down for a moment's rest before she followed the wise men.  

Hours later she woke up, grabbed the basket, and rushed into town. But the kings were gone and so was the little prince and his parents. Ever after, it is said, Babushka has followed after them. Whenever she finds a new born babe, she looks to see if he is the little prince. Even if he (or in our days she too) is not there, Babushka leaves a toy for the child. I think she probably found the prince early on, but we still should learn from her lesson: we should never let the important interfere with the essential.

One of the striking features of the Gospel of John is the way it depicts the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The other gospels usually tell us stories about Jesus. Then, like the disciples, we are left to ask, "Who is this, that wind and sea obey him? Who is this who feeds the multitude on a couple of loaves and a few fish?" But in the Gospel of John, there's never a doubt who Jesus is, because he tells us. Usually he does so with a statement that begins with the words, "I am." Put him in a situation and he will clarify who he is and what he has come to do.

You can put him in the desert surrounded by people who are chronically unsatisfied, and Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35).

You can put him in the midst of people who are confused, people who ask, "Who are you, Jesus? What makes you different from all the other gurus, rabbis, and religious leaders?" And Jesus says, "I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture" (10:7, 9). It is an act of self-definition.

You can put him at graveside, in the midst of grief-stricken people, and Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live" (11:25).

Or put him in the midst of people who feel disconnected by life's difficulties, and Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing" (15:5).

In the Gospel of John, in one situation after another, Jesus defines himself and says, "This is who I am...." In the eighth chapter, Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (8:12). His words echo the opening words of the Fourth Gospel, where the writer defines the person and work of Jesus in terms of light. "What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people ... The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (1:3-4, 9).

Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." This is the kind of thing we might expect to hear in these days after Christmas... 

From our first days in school, or on the playground, we learn the "Count Off."

To keep track of a classroom full of kids, one of the first things first graders learn from busy teachers is to "count off." Especially during fire drills or field trips, it is imperative that every child be accounted for. The presence of every one of them is assured by reaching the proper total number. Besides learning to count off to get a total tally, sometimes the kids "count off" by two's or four's, a fast, easy way to divide up into teams. (Remember how you and your best friends would guess where to stand in the counting-off line so that you could end up on the same team?)

There is a lot of "counting off" that happens during the Christmas season count-down. Retailers groused this year that Thanksgiving came so late that it critically shortened the all-important number of "shopping days" between "Black Friday" and Christmas Day, cutting into final total sales figures. The Salvation Army actually lost 20 million dollars in donations from their red buckets and ringing bells because of the shortened count-down.

Then there is the traditional counting-off of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" - or its more recent counter-part, the "Twelve Days of Bad Christmas Sweaters." Tomorrow marks the last official holiday count off - as we celebrate Epiphany, the end of the twelve day Christmastide that bridges Christmas Eve and Epiphany Eve. Epiphany is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, Emmanuel, "God WITH Us," as was manifest specifically in the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus, which symbolized Jesus' mission to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. God's "Withness" embraces all peoples of all cultures and all creation...  

A Reminder Where Our Hearts Belong

Since Thanksgiving, the shopping malls have been telling us that "It's the most wonderful time of the year." And it is - for them. For many others, however, it is a mixed bag. Christmas isn't what it was when I was a child and never will be again. I'm an adult; it's different; it just is. In this economically difficult time, many have lost jobs or seen their investments and securities dwindle--unsure of what the future holds.

Perhaps we have not been able to do what we might have liked to have done for Christmas. Many husbands and wives, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, are serving in harm's way and are not able to be with family this Christmas. There are those living with illness or with grief at the death of a loved one--sorrow intensified during this season of memories of Christmases past and high, perhaps unrealistic, expectations of what Christmas is supposed to be. There might be those who are just as happy to have the celebration done with and over.

In this season of gift giving and all that pulls and tugs on our hearts, may we remember the good gifts that the Creator has given us, the sun and the moon, this good earth with all its blessings of sky and water, plants and animals, this incredible gift of life, of flesh and blood, of breath and memory, this day, this moment, and all those who people our lives, both joy and sorrow, and all that it means for us to be fully human, fully alive. And, above all, may we remember the gift of the Word made flesh sent to save us, to heal us, to bring us joy, to bring us back to God's own self.

Wm. McCord "Mac" Thigpen, Christmastide: A Reminder Where Our Hearts Belong


1.     Closing the Chasm 

Many years ago, I was walking in the farm that has belonged to my father's family in Kentucky for many generations, and I happened to looked down and I saw this giant anthill. There must have been thousands of these little creatures scurrying back and forth. It was a world unto itself. And as I looked down, I thought to myself, given the capacity of an ant, they have no way of understanding something as big and complex as a human being. If they were aware of me at all, I must have loomed over them as some kind of ominous presence. Then it dawned on me that if I had the power to somehow become an ant and yet take into that new condition as much of the reality of a human being as would be possible - in other words, if I could cross this chasm of otherness from my side - then it would be possible for ants to understand the human in ways that they could never have known before.

 As I walked away, I began to realize that the chasm between an ant and a human being, vast as it is, is nothing to compare between the chasm between a human being and this mysterious, divine reality that gives life. And I realized that we are as incapable of understanding God on our own as an ant would be incapable of understanding us.

John Claypool, God Became What We Are

2.     Called to Obey Love
 Kierkegaard has a fable of a king who fell in love with a maid. When asked, "How shall I declare my love?" his counselors answered, "Your majesty has only to appear in all the glory of your royal glory before the maid's humble dwelling and she will instantly fall at your feet and be yours."

But it was precisely that which troubled the king. He wanted her glorification, not his. In return for his love he wanted hers, freely given. Finally, the king realized love's truth, that freedom for the beloved demanded equality with the beloved. So late one night, after all the counselors of the palace had retired, he slipped out a side door and appeared before the maid's cottage dressed as a servant.

Clearly, the fable is a Christmas story. We are called to obey not God's power, but God's love. God wants not submission to his power, but in return for his love, our own.

God moved in. He pitches his fleshly tent in silence on straw, in a stable, under a star. The cry from that infant's throat pierced the silence of centuries. God's voice could actually be heard coming from human vocal cords.

That's the joy of it. God has come to be with us!

James T. Garrett, God's Gift, CSS Publishing Company

3.     God Is in Everything 

When Christians say, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth," they do not mean that God is everything, but they do mean that God is in everything. "In everything," wrote Paul to the Romans, "God works for good with those who love him ... " (Romans 8:28). The theologian Robert McAfee Brown likes to use in his writing the musical metaphor of themes and variations. There are many musical compositions, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony for example, which begin with a clear, identifiable musical pattern, or theme. What follows in the music is a series of variations on this theme, the theme being repeated in ever more complex combinations. Sometimes the texture of these combinations is so complex that the theme is hidden, seemingly obscured by the competing and interlocking notes. But those who have heard the theme clearly stated at the beginning of the work can still make it out, can feel the music being organized by the theme. In Jesus Christ "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth ...." That's the theme of all of life heard clearly by the ears of faith, and those who have heard that distinct theme can hear it being sounded wherever the music of life is being played, no matter how jangled are the false notes surrounding it. 

Thomas G. Long, Something Is about to Happen, CSS Publishing Company

4.     Witnessing Involves Listening 

While I believe that the gospel is always a proclamation about God's actions, effective witnessing involves a lot of listening. For a proclamation to be "good news" for someone, it has to address their needs, their questions, their concerns. I've often quoted this statement from a course on witnessing: "You don't throw a drowning person a sandwich, no matter how good the sandwich might be." 

Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes

5.     The Word Became Flesh 

If John's Gospel were the only one we had, this is all that we would know about Jesus' birth: before his name was Jesus, his name was the Word, and he was with God from the very beginning of creation, bringing things into being, making things happen, shining light into the darkness.  

He was God's self, God's soul, God's life force in the world. He was the breath inside all living things. He was the electric spark that charged peoples' hearts. He was the fire inside the sun. He was the space between the stars. He was the axis around which the galaxies spin.  

John goes on to say that not everyone got that message. Many were blinded by this light and preferred the darkness they knew to the light which they did not know. The Word sidled up to them and hummed life into their ears, but they cleared their throats and walked away. So God decided to speak in a new way. God decided to speak body language. "And the Word became flesh and lived among us -- full of grace and truth."

This is John's Christmas story in a nutshell. Like Luke, John is telling us about an encounter with the Holy One. God's Word was translated into a human being. God's self, soul, and life force were concentrated into one mortal life on earth, and as a result, nothing would ever be the same again. Not because everyone listened, because everyone does not, but because the eternal Word of God took human form.

Paul E. Flesner, Sermons for Sundays in Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, CSS Publishing Company 
6.     Entertaining Angels Unaware 

The Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament reminds us of that incident, and counsels Christians to make hospitality a Christian virtue. "For you may be entertaining angels unaware." But more than that, you may be doing it to Christ, who said, "If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me."

Tom Long teaches at the seminary at Princeton. But for a while he lived in Atlanta, and attended a Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta. Like most downtown churches, it has to cope with the problem of the homeless. So they opened up their gymnasium in the winter as a shelter. It was the practice of that church, as it is in this church when we open our buildings as a shelter in the winter months, to have people from the church serve as hosts and hostesses.  

Long volunteered to be a host one night. The night came and since no one else volunteered, he invited a friend to come and join him. His friend was not a member of that church. In fact, he wasn't a member of any church. But periodically, in their conversations about religious matters, this friend would say, "Tom, I'm not a theologian, but it seems to me...," and then he would express his opinion.

On this night as they were hosting the shelter, they met the men as they arrived, saw that they had something to eat, hung out with them for a while. Then as the men began to prepare to retire, Tom's friend said, "Tom, you get some sleep. I will stay with them the first watch, then I'll wake you up, and you can come and stay with them for the rest of the night."  

So the friend stayed up and mingled with the guests, listened to them, asked questions about who they were, what had happened to them in their lives that they were now homeless. At 2:00 a.m. he went in and woke up Tom. He said, "Wake up! Wake up! I want you to come and see this. Granted I am no theologian, but I think that Jesus is down there." 

It was promised. "Those who show hospitality to the least of these," he said, "have done it to me."

Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons,
Interesting coincidence, if nothing else, that such indications of an unusual new star at about the time of Christ’s birth can be found all over the world. (SOURCE: "When They Saw The Star" by Henry M. Morris).  

2.     Every December, Mrs. Diane Bartosik  

wears a little golden pin on her United Airlines uniform. It’s a beautiful pin depicting the three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem. In her work as a flight attendant, people will sometimes comment on the beauty of the pin. She uses those situations as opportunities to be a witness for Christ. She wore that little pin on her flight to Los Angeles this past week. She came to one seat, where there were two young girls, seven and ten years old. The seven year old said, "That’s a pretty pin." Diane responded, "Do you know what the pin means?" They both looked carefully at the three men on camels following a star . . . . and then said, "No." They didn’t know what it signified. Then Diane explained, "It’s the three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus." "Do you know that story?" They both said, "No". They had never heard it before. Over the next few hours as they flew across the Pacific, many people commented on the beautiful pin; but to Diane’s amazement, not a single one seemed to understand or at least did not acknowledge that they understood what it symbolized. Throughout the flight, people were attracted to the glitter of the pin --- but in every case, the people Diane met were either indifferent to its meaning, or did not understand its meaning, or in one case a mother did not want her little six-year-old son to even hear the story of the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the coming of the Wise men. 

3.     Epiphany of a pilot:  

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle yesterday when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft's electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter's position and course to steer it to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter's window. The pilot's sign said "Where am I?" in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign, and held it in a building window. Their sign said "You are in a helicopter." The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map, determined the course to steer to Sea-Tac airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the "You are in a helicopter" sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded "I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, similar to their help-lines, they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer."

 4.  Artaban the fourth Wise Man:
In 1895, Henry van Dyke wrote the "Story of the Other Wise Man," a fourth wise man called Artaban. Our hero is not mentioned in the Gospel because he missed the caravan. He got to Bethlehem too late to see the baby Jesus. But Artaban did make it in time to save one of the Holy Innocents by bribing a soldier. For 33 years Artaban searched for Jesus. He did not find him. But all the while the Fourth wise man fed the hungry, helped the poor. Then one day in Jerusalem Artaban saw the "King of the Jews" being crucified. He started to offer a pearl as ransom. But then he saw a girl being sold into slavery to pay family debts. Artaban gave his pearl to buy freedom for the girl. Suddenly the earth quaked as Jesus died on the cross and a stone struck Artaban. Dying, he heard a voice saying: "When you helped the least of my children, you helped me. Meet me in heaven!" Artaban, the fourth Wise Man, had been making God present in his community for years by helping others. God asks each of us on the feast of Epiphany to be a fourth Wise Man by becoming God’s epiphanies, making His love present in the world around us by our acts of love and kindness.

5.  “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.”
Little Amy was looking through the family album and found a picture of a man sitting behind a cow. All that was visible was the man’s legs and feet. When her photographer uncle who owned a photo studio came to visit her mother Amy told him, “This is the only picture of my grandfather that we have. So please remove the cow so that I may see what he looked like." It is the same curiosity which led the Magi to follow the star of Bethlehem.  A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” The same element of suspense marked the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit was going to take them down next. Today’s readings invite us to have the curiosity of Amy and the school students so that we may discover the "epiphany" of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere.

6.  Epiphany under water
There was once a holy monk who lived in Egypt. One day a young man came to visit him. The young man asked: "Oh, holy man, I want to know how to find God." The monk was muscular and burly. He said: "Do you really want to find God?" The young man answered: "Oh, but I do." So the monk took the young man down to the river. Suddenly, the monk grabbed the young man by the neck and held his head under water. At first the young man thought the monk was giving him a special baptism. But when after one minute the monk didn’t let go, the young man began struggling. Still the monk wouldn’t release him. Second by second, the young man fought harder and harder. After three minutes, the monk pulled the young man out of the water and said: "When you desire God as much as you desired air, you will have the epiphany of God." 

From the Connections 

The light of God’s eye

Once upon a time there was a young woman who longed to see God.  Her name was Stella.  All her young life Stella had prayed, worked hard, helped others and gave to the poor and needy generously and compassionately.  But still, she longed to see God — to look God in the pupil of his eye.

She told a wise old man of her desire to see God.  The old man listened and understood.  He told Stella, “Beginning tonight, go out and count the stars.  Start with the middle star in the Orion belt and count to the east.  Do not count any star twice.  When you have counted the ten thousandth star, you will be looking into the very light of God’s eye.”

And so, that night, Stella went out and began to count the stars.  After several hours, she had counted hundreds of stars.  She returned the next night and the next night and the next night.  What she didn’t realize was that as she counted far into the eastern sky, the stars were revolving and turning through the heavens.  One night, twelve months later, Stella was counting aloud, “Nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight.  Nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine.”  As she concluded her count, she realized that the ten thousandth star was the middle star of Orion’s belt, the very star she had started with a year before.  She found her heart filled with the greatest joy and wonder as she gazed at the star, for the star seemed to be gazing back at her.

That very night she ran to the house of the wise old man and told him what she had seen.

“My daughter,” he explained, “you were looking for the light of God’s eye.  But God was there all along.  You just didn’t realize it.  The whole sky had to move through one complete revolution just so you could recognize what was right in front of you to start with.  God moved heaven and earth to bring you to this moment.  That’s how much God loves you!  The eye with which you look at God is the very same eye with which God is looking at you.”

[Adapted from Keepers of the Story: Oral Traditions in Religion by Megan McKenna.] 

“When your life is filled with the desire to see holiness in everyday life,” Rabbi Harold S. Kushner writes, “something magical happens:  Ordinary life becomes extraordinary, and the very process of life begins to nourish your soul.”  The star of Epiphany challenges us to see our own lives in the light of God in our midst.  As the magi undertakes the long and arduous journey in search of the new-born king by the light of the mysterious star, Stella discovers, guided by the wise elder, God in her midst, in every moment of time, in every place along her journey.  Epiphany challenges us to slow down and check our own bearings on our life’s journey, to focus on the “star” we should follow to make our lives all that God has created them to be, to fix our lives on the constant, eternal values of peace, compassion, mercy, justice, and forgiveness that are Emmanuel — ‘God-with-us.’ 
From Fr. Jude Botelho:

In the first reading, Ezekiel, gives us a beautiful picture of Himself as the Shepherd. It is a picture of a shepherd walking in the middle of his sheep, going back and forth among them, looking for the lost, carrying the weak and wounded in his arms. It is a picture of a shepherd, which in biblical times always had overtones of kingship, as with David the shepherd king. Just as the shepherd king cared for his flock, God’s love for us is personal, individual, and there is nothing beyond God’s love that we need.

Part of a great movement
Powerful instincts reside within the human heart. One of these instincts produces a yearning to be part of something great, to be involved in a movement that will change history, to become immortal through sharing in a grand enterprise of worldwide proportions. Throughout history unscrupulous men have taken advantage of this strong instinct. Adolf Hitler is a prime example of how an egomaniac who possesses what today is called “charisma” can scoop almost an entire nation into the palm of his hand. From our vantage point in time we may look back and wonder that rational and responsible human beings were so easily duped until we realize how passionate the hunger to be significant can become. Because he understood this passion, Hitler based his oratory on the principle that if the lie you tell is big enough, people will believe it. In effect he demanded that his people turn over to him their being so that the goals of a master race could be achieved. -Christ as our King claims dominion over all creation. He alone deserves to receive a throne within our hearts. Powerful though he is, he does not win our hearts by force of conquest. Rather he invites us to be the people of his eternal and universal kingdom. He does not play upon our instinct to be part of greatness; he fulfills it.
Charles Miller in ‘Sunday Preaching’

Matthew’s Gospel passage gives us a vision of the last judgement, when all nations, without distinction between Jew and gentile, without discrimination between priest and people, are assembled before the king. We should not think that the vision points only to the end of this world, because it reminds us of the kind of community where Jesus sees himself to be recognized, the kind of people where Jesus sees himself to be at home. The reading tells us that first there will be a separation of the sheep from the goats, the good at the right and the bad at the left. What the sole criterion for judgement for worthiness for citizenship in the Kingdom of God, is our exercise of love. Jesus illustrates his criterion with simple things that everybody can do: feeding the hungry, giving thirsty people a drink, making a stranger welcome, providing covering for the ill-clothed, comforting the sick, and visiting those in jail. But even these simple manifestations of love are often neglected by us. These love-criteria can be put into practice literally and have been called the ‘Corporal works of Mercy’, which the Church and her followers have practiced down the ages. We should note that in Matthew’s vision we have a list of human needs and appropriate responses by a caring community. None of these needs is specifically religious. The criterion does not exalt those who spent long hours in prayer, fasting and penance, they rather focus on the needs of the human heart. To these human needs there is the response of the kingdom people. That response is an authentic human response and therefore a profoundly religious one.

Whatsoever you do to the least, you do unto me.
Joe’s query was not out of concern for my welfare but rather to highlight his own predicament. He merely asked whether I had eaten a meal that day. He had not and with that frosty evening closing in he was not likely to eat one unless I provided it. One way or another he assured me that he would survive, as there were many days when he did not have a decent meal but it would be greatly appreciated if he could have one now. Like an alert T.D., he quickly added the supplementary question to ask if I had ever gone two days in winter without a meal. The plea was irresistible. When Joe left I was filled with gratitude towards and deep appreciation of thousands of people throughout the land who provide meals on wheels, who care for the aging or sick relatives or neighbours, or who work in the Vincent de Paul Society or the aid agencies. Today’s gospel is a salute to all such workers and helpers. Jesus assures them that every act of kindness done to one in need is done to himself and will be rewarded accordingly. It is a good gospel to keep before our minds in the run up to Christmas. 
Tom Clancy in ‘Living the Word’

Doing good
There was a queue of people outside the gates of heaven. Each person was asked the question: ‘Why do you think you should be admitted?’ The first person in the queue, a very religious man, said, ‘I studied the Bible every day.’ ‘Very good,’ said the Lord.’ However, we’ll have to carry out an investigation to see why you studied the Bible. So please step aside for a moment!’ The second was a very pious woman who said, ‘Lord, I said my prayers every day without fail.’ ‘Very good,’ the Lord answered. ‘However, we’ll have to see if your motives were pure, so step aside for a moment.’Then an innkeeper approached. He just said, ‘Lord on earth I wasn’t a very religious man, but my door was always open to the homeless, and I never refused food to anyone who was hungry.’ ‘Very good,’ said the Lord. ‘In your case no investigation is needed, Go right in.’ -It has been said that if you do a good deed, but have an ulterior motive, it would be better not to do it at all. The only exception is charity. Even though it isn’t as good as doing it with a pure motive, it is still a good deed, and benefits the other person, no matter what your motive.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’

The Beggar King
In his book The Christian Vision, John Powell recalls an old Irish legend. It seems that the reigning king had no children to succeed him on the throne. So he has his messengers post signs in every town and village of his kingdom inviting qualified young man to apply for an interview with the king. This way the king hoped to be able to choose a successor before he died. Two qualifications, especially, were stressed. The person must have a deep love for God and for his neighbour. The young man around whom the legend centres saw one of the signs. He, indeed, had a deep love for God and neighbour. He felt a kind of inner voice telling him to apply for an interview. But the young man was so poor that he didn’t have decent clothes to wear to an interview. He also had no money to buy provisions for the long journey to the king’s castle. He finally decided to beg for the clothes and the provisions he needed. After a month of travel, one day the young man caught sight of the king’s castle. At about the same time, he also caught sight of a poor old beggar sitting by the side of the road. The beggar held out his hands and pleaded for help. “I’m hungry and cold,” he said. “Could you give me something warm to wear and something nourishing to eat?” The young man was moved by the sight of the beggar. He stripped off his warm outer clothes and exchanged them for the tattered old coat of the beggar. He also gave the beggar most of the provisions he had been carrying in his backpack. Then, somewhat uncertainly, he walked on to the castle in tattered clothes and without enough food for his return trip. When the young man arrived at the castle, guards met him and took him to the visitors’ area. After a long wait, the young man was led in to see the king.He bowed low before the throne. When he straightened up, the young man could hardly believe his eyes. He said to the king, “You were the beggar beside the road.” “That’s right,” said the king. “Why’d you do this to me?” asked the young man. “I had to find out,” said the king, “if you really did love God and neighbour.”
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

Loyal to the Master
Once a soldier was taken before the Roman magistrate. His crime was that of being a Christian. The magistrate asked him, “Are you a Christian?” The Christian soldier relied, “Yes”. The magistrate enquired, “If so, are you the enemy of Caesar?” The Christian replied, “No.” “Then you must offer incense to the image of Caesar”, said the magistrate. The Christian replied boldly, “I refused to offer any incense to the Caesar. God, and God alone must be adored and worshipped. Jesus alone is my God and I love and worship Him alone.” The magistrate threatened saying, “If you refuse I will sever your head from your body.” The Christian boldly replied, “You may cut off my head from my shoulder, but you cannot separate my heart from my king and God-Jesus Christ.” The Christian was decapitated.
John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’
Hidden face of Christ
In the year 1880 in Paris a rather poorly dressed priest showed up at a presbytery looking for a night’s lodgings. He had come all the way from Turin, in Italy, and was trying to raise funds to build a church. The visitor’s name was John Bosco, but this meant nothing to the resident priest, so he put him in the attic. Many years later when John Bosco was declared a saint by the Church, the priest said, ‘had I known it was John Bosco, I would not have put him in the attic; I would have given him the best room in the house.’ We never know exactly who it is we are meeting in the person of our neighbour. But this is not important. What is important is that we see in that person a needy human being, and that we do our best to meet his need. For those with faith, behind the face, no matter how strange, the face of Christ lies hidden.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’
From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1: “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” This same sense of suspense and surprise prompted us to watch the episodes of the Star War movies. The same desire for epiphany with the thrill and suspense awaiting them prompted adults to watch James Bond films and encouraged the great explorers like Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus to make risky and adventurous journeys. It is the same curiosity which led the Magi to follow the star of Bethlehem. An element of suspense marked every moment in the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit of God was going to take them down next. Today’s readings invite us to have the same curiosity as explorers and movie fans do, so that we may discover the “epiphany,” or manifestation, or Self- revelation, of our God in every person and every event, everywhere. (

2: History of Epiphany: Next to Easter, Epiphany is the oldest season of the Church year. In Asia Minor and Egypt, Epiphany was observed as early as the second century. The Festival of the Epiphany fell (and still falls), on January 6. It was observed as a unitive festival — both the birth and Baptism of Jesus were celebrated at this time. January 6 was chosen as Epiphany Day because it was the winter solstice, a pagan festival celebrating the birthday of the sun god. In 331 AD the solstice was moved to December 25, but January 6 continued to be observed. Christians substituted Epiphany for the solstice. The emphasis was upon the re-birth of light. In keeping with this time, the First Lesson for Epiphany Day is appropriate: “Arise, shine; for your light has come.” The unitive Festival of Epiphany was divided when December 25 was chosen as the birthday of Jesus. The Church in the East continued to celebrate Epiphany in terms of the Baptism of Jesus while the Western Church associated Epiphany with the visit of the Magi. For the East, the Baptism of Jesus was more vital because of the Gnostic heresy claiming that only at his baptism did Jesus become the Son of God. On the other hand, to associate Epiphany with the Magi is appropriate, for the Magi might not have gotten to Bethlehem until a year after Jesus’ birth. By this time the Holy Family was in a house rather than in a stable. If this was the case, then the Magi could not have been a part of the manger scene popularly portrayed in today’s Christmas scenes and plays. The Vatican II lectionary and calendar combine the two by placing the visit of the Magi on Epiphany Day and the Baptism of Jesus on Epiphany 1 (The First Sunday after the Epiphany). (

3: Adventurers: When pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager made their historic flight in 1986 with their spindly Voyager aircraft, the whole world followed it with excitement. For nine days a sky-watch was kept tracking their first non-stop global flight without refueling. Achievers and risk-takers like Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager have always fascinated us. Marco Polo journeying to India and China, Christopher Columbus coming to America, Admiral Byrd going to the South Pole, our Astronauts flying to the moon: such adventurers have always aroused our admiration and our scepticism. – It was no different at the time of the Magi in today’s Gospel story. To the cynical observer the Magi must have seemed foolish to go following a star. These astrologers had to be a little crazy leaving the security of their homeland to venture forth into a strange country presided over by a madman like Herod. Nevertheless, to the person with the eyes of Faith, the Magi had discovered an immense secret. They found not only the secret of the star but the secret of the whole universe – the secret of God’s incredible love for His people. For the Child they found was no ordinary child but the very Son of God become man. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). ( 

4. “I want the big cow!”: It was an excited little girl who told me this story. The first two wise men got down from their camels and offered their precious gifts to the Baby. He declined them. When the Baby Jesus declined the gift of the third also, the exasperated wise man asked, “Then what do you want?” The Child Jesus answered quickly and with a warm smile, “Your big cow!”
2) A husband asked his wife, “Why would God give the wise men a star to guide them?” She replied, “Because God knows men are too proud to ask directions.”

5. Three Wise Women: While they were talking about the story of the three wise men, a woman asked her parish priest this question, “Do you know why God gave the star to the wise men?” When he professed his ignorance, she told him: “God knows men are too proud to ask directions. If there had been three wise women instead of three wise men, they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and given some practical gifts!”

6. Epiphany of a pilot: A helicopter was flying around above Seattle yesterday when an electrical malfunction disabled all the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to steer to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said, “Where am I?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign, and held it in a building window. Their sign said, “You are in a helicopter.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map, determined the course to steer to Sea-Tac airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “You are in a helicopter” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded, “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, similar to their help-lines, they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer.”

24-Additional anecdotes:

1. A woman among the Magi? Rev. Benedict Thomas Viviano, a renowned Gospel of Matthew professor, Dominican friar and priest (!/content/17405/viviano_writes_about_a_woman_magi), has a new Biblical theory that may change nativity scenes across the globe: there was one Wise Woman (or more) among the Wise Men. His original theory was published in 2011 in Studies of Matthew by Leuven University Press. It’s “perfectly plausible” that Matthew would have understood the magi as some sort of Eastern sages, he said. “On the other hand, the masculine plural magoi does not close the question of gender. “The main reason to think of the presence of one or more women among the magi is the background story of the queen of Sheba, with her quest for Israelite royal wisdom, her reverent awe, and her three gifts fit for a king,” Viviano suggested. His second reason to suspect the presence of the feminine is the Israelite tradition of personifying wisdom as a woman, he said (Proverbs 8:22-30; 9:1-6; Book of Sirach, 24). Viviano’s third argument for his female magi cause is that Matthew’s Gospel later characterizes Jesus as embodying wisdom, which Jewish literature considers female and even terms Lady Wisdom. The passages he refers to are Matthew, Chapter 11:19 and 25-30. What difference it would have made if there was a woman among the magi? A women’s magazine says: They would have come before the birth of Jesus, brought provisions for the child and his mother and the woman would have served as a midwife! (

2) An epiphany in the airport. We spot what looks like a mom, a dad, and three teenage daughters. The girls and their mom are each holding a bouquet of roses. We are wondering what the story is. Whom are they expecting? The dad keeps looking at his watch. The mom keeps turning her head to make sure she hears each airport announcement. Finally, the door opens. First come the “rushers”–men and women in suits with briefcases and bags over their shoulders, rushing towards phones, bathrooms, and their cars or rent-a-cars. We’re still wondering and watching to learn whom this family we’ve been studying is there to meet. Then out come a young Marine, his wife, and their obviously brand-new baby. The three girls run to the couple and the baby. Then Mom. Dad. Hugs. Kisses. Embraces. “OOPS! The flowers!” But the baby is the center of attention. Each member of the family gets closer and closer to the mother and each opens the bundle in pink to have a first peek at this new life on the planet. We’re seeing it from a distance. It’s better than the evening news. Then we notice several other smiling people also watching the same scene. There are many other hugging scenes, people meeting people, but this is the big one. We’re smiling too. A tear of joy. What wonderful moment we are photographing into our memory. We’re thinking, “Family! Children! Grandchildren!” This is what life is all about. We’re experiencing an epiphany. Life is filled with them. Praise God! (

3) Artaban’s gift: There’s a story called “The Other Wise Man” by Henry van Dyke. It’s about a fourth person who is supposed to accompany the other three wise men on their journey to search for the newborn King. The name of the person is Artaban. As Artaban prepares for the journey, he takes with him a bag of precious stones to give to the baby King. On this way to join the other three wise men, Artaban stops to help a poor person. The delay is just enough to make him miss his rendezvous with the others. Artaban never does catch up with them. He constantly runs into people who need help. And he always stops to help them. Eventually, Artaban gives away all his precious stones. As the story ends, Artaban is old and poor. He has never realized his dream to meet the King of Kings. But the story doesn’t end here. One day Artaban is in Jerusalem. Authorities are about to execute a criminal. When Artaban sees the criminal, his heart skips a beat. Something tells him this is the King of Kings for whom he has been searching all his life. Artaban is heartbroken when he sees he can do nothing to help the King. Then something remarkable happens. Artaban hears the King’s voice say to him: “Don’t be broken-hearted, Artaban. You’ve been helping me all your life. When I was hungry, you gave me food. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. When I was a stranger, you took me in” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).

4) Epiphany of a drummer: Consider a true story of a young man named Tony. He travelled all over the world, appearing widely on stage and on television as a drummer in a world-famous music group. Then one day Tony felt called to the priesthood. When he resigned from the music group to enter a seminary, some people thought him to be a fool. The story could end here. And if it did, some would consider it to be a sad story. It would be the story of a young man who let a dream slip through his fingers. But the story doesn’t end here. Tony’s now a priest in the diocese of Dallas. And he’s tremendously happy. Jesus will someday say to him what he said to Artaban: “You’ve been helping me all your life, Tony. What you did for your Parishioners, you did for me.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).(
5) Lesser epiphanies of Robert and Edison: Let’s start by reminding ourselves: God keeps appearing; we still have epiphanies. One kind of lesser epiphany is an “aha” experience. We sometimes get an “aha” when studying the Bible. For days, Robert had been bothered by a big sin he’d committed — that so awful, so nasty sin we dread telling in confession. Then, reading about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, Robert felt, “Aha! If God can raise his friend Lazarus from the dead, God can forgive me this great sin I committed!” A “lesser epiphany!” When Robert went to confession, he knew God loved him, deeply and totally.
We have “lesser epiphanies” as others treat us with kindness. After Thomas Edison had finished making the very first light bulb, Edison gave the light bulb to a young assistant to carry upstairs. Crash! The young man dropped the light bulb! Twenty-four hours later, a second light bulb completed, Edison handed the second light bulb to the same young lad. Edison knew, accidents happen, but the young man was still a fine young man. Here was a “lesser epiphany” — God’s love manifested in the kind gesture of a great inventor. Have no doubt. God continues to appear among us. When we attune ourselves to God, we see “lesser epiphanies” every day. There may be no star hovering overhead, but we recognize God in the kind gesture, in the “aha” insight; we see God in the love we receive and are called to give. (Fr. Clyde Bonar) (

6) The Hostess of the Magi missed Child Jesus: Once upon a time there lived in Bethlehem a woman named Babushka. She kept the cleanest and neatest house in town and was also the best cook. She heard rumors of three kings coming across the desert but paid no attention to them because she had so much work to do. Then she heard the sounds of drums and pipes and a cavalcade of riders. She looked out the window and there were three richly dressed kings coming towards her house. They told her that they had come to honor the little prince who had been born in Bethlehem and they needed food and lodging. Babushka cooked a wonderful meal for them, remade all the beds, and wore herself out. The next morning the kings begged her to come with them so she too might see the little prince. Babushka said she would follow after them as soon as she finished the dishes. She cleaned the house again and then took out of a cabinet the toys of her own little prince who had died so long ago. She had no more need of them and would give them to the new little prince. She put them in a basket and sat down for a moment’s rest before she followed the wise men. Hours later she woke up, grabbed the basket, and rushed into town. But the kings were gone and so were the little prince and his parents. Ever after, it is said, Babushka has followed after them. Whenever she finds a newborn babe, she looks to see if he is the little prince. Even if he (or in our days she too), is not there, Babushka leaves a toy for the child. I think she probably found the prince early on, but we still should learn from her lesson: we should never let the important interfere with the essential. (Fr. Andrew Greely) (

7) A new Magi story: In this story, the three wise men, Gaspar, Balthassar and Melchior, were three different ages.  Gaspar was a young man, Balthassar a middle-aged man and Melchior an elderly man.  They found a cave where the Holy One was and entered to do him homage one at a time.  Melchior the old man entered first.  He found an old man like himself in the cave.  They shared stories and spoke of memory and gratitude.  Middle-aged Balthassar entered next.  He found a man his own age there.  They spoke passionately about leadership and responsibility.  Young Gaspar was the last to enter.  He found a young prophet waiting for him.  They spoke about reform and promise.  Afterward when the three kings spoke to each other about their encounter with the Christ, they were shocked at each other’s stories.  So, they got their gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh together and all three went into the cave.  They found a baby there, the infant Jesus only twelve days old.  There is a deep message here.  Jesus reveals himself to all people, at all stages of their lives, whether they are Jew or Gentile. (Fr. Pellegrino). (

8) O Henry’s story of real love through sacrificial sharing: “Gift of the Magi”:  (A summarized version):   It was Christmas Eve, during the days of the depression of the 1930’s. Della and James, a newly married couple, were very poor. They loved each other dearly, but money was hard come by.  In fact, as Christmas approached, they were unhappy because they had no money to buy presents for each other. They had two possessions that they valued deeply:  James had a gold watch which had belonged to his father, and Della had long and beautiful golden-brown hair. Della knew that James’ watch had no matching chain–only a worn-out leather strap. A matching chain would be an ideal gift for her husband, but she lacked the money to buy it.
As she stood before the mirror, her eyes fell on her long brown tresses. She was very proud of her beautiful hair, but she knew what she had to do. She faltered a moment, but nothing could stand in the way of love. She hastened to the “hair-dealers,” sold her hair for twenty dollars, and went round shop after shop, hunting for the ideal gift. At last she found it: a gold chain for her husband’s watch. She was very happy and proud of the gift. She knew James would love it, the fruit of her sacrifice.
James came in, beaming with love, proud of the gift he had bought for Della. He knew she would be very happy with the gift.  But when he saw her, his face fell. She thought he was angry at what she had done. She tried to console him by saying that her hair would grow fast, and soon it would be as beautiful as before. That is when he gave her his gift. It was an expensive set of combs, with gem-studded rims.   She had always wanted them for her hair! She was very happy, but with a tinge of sadness. She knew it would be some time before she could use the precious gift.
Then, with tears in her eyes, she presented him with the gift she had bought. As he looked at the beautiful chain, he said with a sigh: “I guess our gifts will have to wait for some time. The combs were very expensive; I had to sell my watch to buy the combs!” These were the perfect gifts:  gifts of sacrificial love. Both James and Della were very happy for, like the Magi, they had discovered LOVE through self-sacrifice.(

9) Angel at work? The British express train raced through the night, its powerful headlight piercing the darkness. Queen Victoria was a passenger on the train. Suddenly the engineer saw a startling sight. Revealed in the beam of the engine’s light was a strange figure in a black cloak standing in the middle of the tracks and waving its arms. The engineer grabbed for the brake and brought the train to a grinding halt. He and his fellow trainmen clambered down to see what had stopped them. But they could find no trace of the strange figure. On a hunch the engineer walked a few yards further up the tracks. Suddenly he stopped and stared into the fog in horror. A bridge had been washed out in the middle and ahead of them it had toppled into a swollen stream. If the engineer had not heeded the ghostly figure, his train would have plummeted down into the stream. While the bridge and tracks were being repaired, the crew made a more intensive search for the strange flagman. But not until they got to London did they solve the mystery. At the base of the engine’s headlight the engineer discovered a huge dead moth. He looked at it a moment, then on impulse wet its wings and pasted it to the glass of the lamp. Climbing back in to his cab, he switched on the light and saw the “flagman” in the beam. In the fog, it appeared to be a phantom figure, waving its arms. When Queen Victoria was told of the strange happening she said, “I’m sure it was no accident. It was God’s way of protecting us.” No, the figure the engineer saw in the headlight’s beam was not an angel…and yet God, quite possibly through the ministry of His unseen angels, had placed the moth on the headlight lens exactly when and where it was needed. Today’s Gospel tells us how God sent a star to lead the magi to His Son Jesus. (Billy Graham from Unto the Hills; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (

10) “It’s me Papa. Open the door, it’s your son.” The Buddha told a story. A young widower who loved his five-year-old son very much was away on business, and bandits came, burned down his whole village, and took his son away. When the man returned, he saw the ruins, and panicked. He took the charred corpse of an infant to be his own child, and he began to pull his hair and beat his chest, crying uncontrollably. He organized a cremation ceremony, collected the ashes and put them in a very beautiful velvet bag. Working, sleeping, eating, he always carried the bag of ashes with him. One day his real son escaped from the robbers and found his way home. He arrived at his father’s new cottage at midnight, and knocked at the door. You can imagine at that time, the young father was still carrying the bag of ashes, and crying. He asked, “Who is there?” And the child answered, “It’s me Papa. Open the door, it’s your son.” In his agitated state of mind the father thought that some mischievous boy was making fun of him, and he shouted at the child to go away, and he continued to cry. The boy knocked again and again, but the father refused to let him in. Some time passed, and finally the child left. From that time on, father and son never saw one another… After telling this story, the Buddha said, “Sometimes, somewhere you take something to be the truth. If you cling to it so much, when the truth comes in person and knocks at your door, you will not open it.” (Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk in his book Being Peace). We celebrate the feast of Epiphany. God breaks through. God is revealed. Truth happens.

11) Those who are at the top need to fear a fall: Raymond Brown, the great New Testament scholar, found an echo of the story of the Three Wise Men in the story of King Balak and the prophet Balaam in the Old Testament. Balak was a king of the Moabites. When the Israelites left Egypt under the leadership of Moses, Like king Herod who feared the birth of the Messiah and wanted to kill him, King Balak feared the Israelites wanted to destroy Moab, so he planned to destroy them. To accomplish his purpose, Balak summoned a famous prophet, Balaam, to place a curse on Israel. Balaam was an interesting character; he was a non-Israelite, and a practitioner of enchantment. He was capable of doing both good and evil. Balaam, the prophet, came from the east along with two servants, thereby, making the number three, like the Magi. And when he came, commanded to curse Israel, the Holy Spirit foiled King Balak’s efforts by blessing Israel through Balaam and foretelling the future greatness of Israel and the rise of its royal ruler. Balaam prophesied and said, “A star will come forth from Jacob, and a scepter will rise from Israel.” Like king Herod who massacred all the infants in Bethlehem 2 years-old and younger so that he wouldn’t miss the newborn King, the wicked king Balak tried to do the same thing by using a magus to destroy the Israelites, but his efforts were foiled. (John Rose in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (

12) Why a Feast only for the Magi and not for the shepherds? In the stories of Jesus’ birth, two special groups of people came to visit the newborn babe: the shepherds and the Magi. The Church has no special feast to commemorate the visit of the shepherds, but we have this special feast of Epiphany today to celebrate the visit of the magi. Why is that? It is because the visit of the Magi is an eye-opener. The shepherds learnt of the birth of Jesus through a direct Revelation from angels appearing in the midnight sky, and they believed the Message. This is direct and supernatural Revelation. Many of us have no problem with that. The Magi, on the other hand, learnt of the birth of Jesus by observing a star. The star did not say anything to them. They had to interpret this natural sign of the star to know what it meant and where it led. If we remember that the Magi or the three wise men divined God’s will by reading the movements of the stars and other heavenly bodies, then we can see how the visit of the Magi challenges some of our popular beliefs. (Fr. Munacchi). (

13) The star of Bethlehem: In Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Star,” we read about a Jesuit astrophysicist who makes a space trip with other scientists to a distant galaxy called the Phoenix Nebula. There they chance upon a solitary planet still orbiting the remnant of a central sun, which had exploded thousands of years ago. The explorers land their spacecraft on this planet and examine the scorched surface caused by that cosmic detonation. They discover a melted-down monolithic marker at the entrance of a great vault in which they find the carefully stored treasures and records of an advanced civilization. On their return trip to earth in our own galaxy, the Jesuit astrophysicist calculates the exact time when the light from this cosmic explosion in the Phoenix Nebula reached earth. It was the date of Christ’s birth when the light from that fire was seen as a bright new star appearing in the East. But now that he had solved an ancient mystery, he had a greater mystery to grapple with. How could a loving God allow a whole planet of intelligent being to be given a galactic conflagration, so that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem at his Son’s birth? This science-fiction story about the star of Bethlehem has its source in today’s Gospel. Mathew’s narration of the Magi uses the star as its central symbol. From its rising in the East to its coming to a standstill over Bethlehem, the star leads and guides the astrologers. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (

14) Horoscope mania: As we enter into a new year it is comforting to know that the stars are in our favor. We are still in the early years of the Age of Aquarius, which, according to Wikipedia, officially began November 11, 2011. “When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets and love will spear the stars.“ That’s what the astrologers have been telling us, and it is not difficult to be impressed by the fact that an estimated fifty million North Americans consult the “Horoscope” in their newspapers, and that books on astrology have been selling by hundreds of thousands every year. Among young people, astrology is very much an “in” thing — unfortunately, in some cases, as a kind of substitute for religion, which they have rejected. As it is in all forms of prediction, astrology can be troublesome because so often it is ambiguous and is very hard to interpret. A man was telling his friend that an astrologer had said to him, “Your wife’s second husband will be rich, brilliant and handsome.” And the friend asked, “Didn’t it upset you to hear that kind of prediction?” “Yes, it did upset me very much,” the man answered. “I didn’t know my wife had been married before.” For some people, apparently, the star signs can mean what they want them to mean. But it is interesting to note that people are interpreting the star signs to mean we are moving into a new era of brotherhood, peace and love. This should be of the utmost importance to us Christians because our most reliable source for information concerning the world’s destiny — The New Testament – is saying the same thing. And, incredibly, it begins telling us the story of a baby’s birth. “We observed His star at its rising and have come to pay Him homage.” On this first Sunday of the New Year, if we have discovered the living presence of God deep in the core of our being then we will not have missed Jesus’ star at its rising, and we will know how to pay Him true homage. With God at the center of our lives we will bear homage to the newborn Babe through our gifts of heartfelt compassion, patient understanding and genuine concern for others. Our greatest gift to the world in this New Year or any other year is the gift of self. This is the homage we pay Him: to love one another as Jesus has loved us. (Millennium edition). (

15) Camel on the roof: We begin with a story from a collection of the lives of saints – the saints of Islam – which concerns a king of Balkh (now northern Afghanistan) named Ebrahim ibn Adam. Ebrahim was wealthy according to every earthly measure. At the same time, however, he sincerely and restlessly strove to be wealthy spiritually as well. “One night the king was roused from sleep by a fearful stumping on the roof above his bed. Alarmed, he shouted: ‘Who’s there?’ ‘A friend,’ came the reply from the roof. ‘I’ve lost my camel.’ Perturbed by such stupidity, Ebrahim screamed: ‘You fool! Are you looking for a camel on the roof?’ ‘You fool!’ the voice from the roof answered. ‘Are you looking for God in silk clothing, and lying on a golden bed?’” The story goes on, according to Jesuit theologian Walter G. Burghardt, to tell how these simple words filled the king with such terror that he arose from his sleep to become a most remarkable saint [Still Proclaiming Your Wonders: Homilies for the Eighties (New York: Paulist Press, 1984), 55.] The camel on the roof raises the Epiphany question, “Where are you looking for God?” This compelling question of life properly stands at the beginning of a new year, as does, “Where have you found God?”

16) “If I lose that, I am lost.” A great artist once painted a picture in which a solitary figure is seen rowing a small boat across the dark waters of a lonely lake. A high wind is churning up the waters causing white-crested billows to rage ominously around the tiny skiff. As he rows on, the boatman’s eyes are fixed on the one lone star shining through the darkness. Under the picture, the artist has inscribed these words: “If I lose that, I am lost.” In the manner of that dauntless boatman, our mission is to keep our eyes fixed on a certain star as we travel along life’s way. This very day, we join with the Wise Men from the East as the Star of Bethlehem guides us along the way to the place of the Savior’s birth. But, having paid homage to the newborn Babe, our eyes must remain fixed on Jesus’ star. In order that Jesus may number us among those who love Him and will carry on His work, we must follow His star to the foot of the cross. It is only from the cross that that guiding star can lead us to the empty tomb. It is there, at the place of Resurrection. (Millennium Edition).

17) We Live Like Beggars: Thomas Merton was a famous Christian writer. He was converted to the Catholic religion, and later became a Trappist monk. He was an author of many books. In one of his books, he says that he once met a Hindu sanyasi (ascetic). The sanyasi said to him that he loved two lovely Christian books: The Confessions of St. Augustine and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis. He suggested Merton read these two books. What an irony! A non-Christian recommending two great Christian classics to a Christian! This is the paradox in life — we have such wealth, yet, because of our ignorance, we live like beggars. The same thing happened to the Jews; they were the Chosen ones but did not find the Messiah. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies). 

18) “I have a dream…..”On August 28,1963, before a quarter million Afro-Americans, Martin Luther King Jr. thundered, “I have a dream that former slaves and slave-owners will sit together at the table of brotherhood…I have a dream that little black boys/girls will be able to join hands with little white boys/girls as sisters and brothers… I have a dream that my four children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Likewise, Mahatma Gandhi envisioned “The India of my dreams.” King and Gandhiji have left their footprints indelibly on the sands of human history. Ignatius of Loyola spent much time stargazing before birthing the Society of Jesus. Rabindranath Tagore’s prayer, “Amidst thy numberless stars, let me place my own little lamp,” is a must-say for modern Magi who leave familiar shores and follow stars. Remember, as you strip stars from your Christmas trees and cribs, ask yourself: “Who, and what, is my star?” Start this New Year with some dream and some star that will guide you towards Jesus Christ, Superstar, The Light of all nations. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds)

19) Looking at the Stars: It was a hot day in July 1969 on board an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Sailors with binoculars were searching the sky above the carrier. Suddenly they let out a yell. There, orange and white parachutes exploded and bloomed in the blue sky. Dangling from them was a ball-like shape. It was the Apollo II space capsule. Minutes later the capsule plunged into the warm water of the Pacific. The splashdown climaxed a voyage that had put three men on the moon. When the smiling astronauts emerged from the capsule, President Nixon danced a little jig on the carrier deck. He had flown halfway around the world to witness this history-making moment. He said the splashdown climaxed the greatest week in the world since creation. In the exciting months ahead, the three astronauts made a good will tour around the world. They visited 23 countries in 45 days. One of the “most striking moments of the trip,” said Astronaut Ed Aldrin, was to visit the Vatican. The astronauts were especially moved by the unusual gifts presented them by Pope Paul VI. Writing in his book Return to Earth, Ed Aldrin says: “His Holiness unveiled three magnificent porcelain statues of the Three Wise Men. He said that these three men were directed to the infant Christ by looking at the stars and that we three also reached our destination by looking at the stars.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). ( 

20)  The whispering angel: The seventeenth century painter Guido Reni has left us a magnificent painting of Matthew. An angel is whispering to him various events in the life of Jesus. The attentive Evangelist is frantically writing down all that he is told. The tale will become his Gospel. A portion of those whispers is today’s story of the Epiphany. It is only Matthew who tells us this tale filled with wonder. Why the other Evangelists ignored this magical story, we will never know — at least this side of the grave. (Fr. Gilhooly). V

21) Bones of the wise men? If you ever visit Cologne (Köln) Cathedral in Germany you can walk around the sanctuary where, behind the main altar, you will find a large reliquary which is said to contain the bones or at least the skulls of the three wise men. “How did they get to Cologne?” you might ask. Ireland has been privileged to have been visited by the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux (2001) and St Anthony of Padua (2003) so that makes it easier for us to understand the explanation. The wise men’s bones are said to have been found in Persia and then brought to Constantinople by St Helena. St Helena was the mother of the emperor Constantine who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. The bones were transferred from Constantinople to Milan in the fifth century and to Cologne in 1163. (Fr. Tommy Lane). (

22) The Magi at 40,000 feet: On Christmas morning, a single mom and her two sons, ages 14 and 12, boarded a plane in Atlanta. They were heading to San Diego to spend Christmas with friends. Another single mother boarded the same flight, wrangling two small boys, ages 2 and 3. The older boy was wearing a ”halo” neck brace to immobilize his head and spine. They took their seats two rows behind the first family. The younger child sat on her lap, and the boy in the halo took the middle seat — next to a man with a look of unmitigated dread. Both toddlers immediately started screaming. The boy in the halo wanted no part of the seat belt and the other didn’t want to sit on his mother’s lap. The first mom knew what the toddlers’ mom was going through. Once the plane was in the air, she got up and offered her seat to the ashen-faced man near the window. He looked spectacularly relieved. She took his place and offered the mom an extra pair of hands. For the next four hours she read Dr. Seuss, walked up and down the aisle with the boys, amused them with hand puppets, changed diapers, doled out Goldfish crackers and bottles. During the last hour of the flight, both children were asleep, and the two moms had a chance to talk. The toddler’s mom asked the first mom about her sons’ father. She told her about the divorce and a new relationship that was faltering. “And your sons: where is their father?” she asked gingerly. The toddlers’ mom spoke softly: “Six months ago, my husband was killed in a car accident. I was at home with the baby, and my older son” — she pointed to the three-year-old with the halo — “was airlifted in critical condition from the scene. He had a broken neck and severe internal injuries. It was touch and go for a while. He still has ways to go.” She went on to explain that she was on leave from Delta and was now trying to sort out the next moves for her and her boys. For now, she was taking them to see her family in California. She smiled wistfully. “You never know how quickly life can change. The life you plan . . .” Her voice trailed off as she smiled at the sleeping child in her lap. The first mom writes of that Christmas: “I had intended to be the generous one that morning. My gift to her was an extra pair of hands to wrangle spirited toddlers trapped on a plane. But her gift to me was of the Magi order. It was the gift of perspective, of being able to step back and appreciate what I have, however frustrating . . . thanks to that stranger on a plane, I discovered I had more patience and appreciation in me.” [From “The Magi at 40,000 feet” by Laura Wilkinson Sinton, The New York Times (December 22, 2011).] (Fr. Kayala). (

23) The Star of Bethlehem: Gordon Wilson’s daughter was killed by a bomb in Enniskillen on Remembrance Day 1987. Instead of calling for revenge, he forgave her killers and began a campaign for peace and reconciliation. He said: “I am a very ordinary sort of man. I have few personal ambitions and no political aspirations. I just want to live and let live. Life has been kind to me in the main, and I have tried to live by the Good Book. I do not profess to be a good man, but I aim to be. I would like to leave the world a better place than I found it, but I have no exaggerated ideas of my ability to do so. I have hitched my wagon to a star, a star of hope, the star of Bethlehem.
(Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (

24) The gift of the Magi, and our gift to Him: Once, the people of a very poor parish set their hearts on acquiring an expensive set of figures for their Christmas crib. They worked hard and managed to get a set of rare porcelain for their crib. The Church was left open on Christmas day so that the people could visit the crib. In the evening when the parish priest went to lock up, to his consternation he found the baby Jesus was missing. As he stood there, he spotted a little girl with a pram entering the church. She made straight for the crib, took the baby Jesus out of the pram and put him lovingly in the crib. As she was on her way out the priest stopped her and asked her what she was doing with the baby Jesus.  She told him that before Christmas she had prayed to baby Jesus for a pram. She had promised him that if she got the prom, he would have the first ride in it. She had got her pram so she was keeping her side of the bargain. –Christmas evokes generosity in all people, especially in children. It was the poverty of the infant Jesus that caused the Magi to open their treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and lay them before him. What is our gift to him? (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). ( L/20