A Powerful River

(Homily for Epiphany Sunday)
“You mean we might draw a circle on the ground – and write in queer letters in it – and stand inside it – and recite charms and spells?”

“Well,” said Eustace after he had thought hard for a bit. “I believe that was the sort of thing I was thinking of, though I never did it. But now that it comes to the point, I’ve an idea that all those circles and things are rather rot. I don’t think he’d like them. It would look as if we though we could make him do things. But really, we can only ask him.” (The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis)

This year Epiphany Sunday comes on the heels of New Year. In fact, as you will hear in the Proclamation of Date of Easter, all of our liturgical celebrations arrive quite early this year.* For example, Lent begins just five weeks from Wednesday.

I am not saying this to tell you to “get busy,” although for some of us it would not hurt to hear such an admonition. Still, the message is not so much to get busy as to get relaxed. In other words, what we need to do is to allow ourselves to enter the rhythm of the liturgical year. If we do, it will carry us like a powerful river.

The Magi are our models. When they met the Christ Child, they placed themselves under him. They worshiped him. In doing so, they gave up their attempts to control things from the outside. Those attempts sometimes do work, whether through the arts of magic – or the more powerful “magic” of science and medicine.** But they are beside the point when we meet Jesus. He requires our surrender, placing ourselves under his control.

It is not easy – and no doubt each of us will have reversals. Yet, as we begin the New Year, we have the example of the Magi. They found “the child with Mary his mother.” There is no better way of worshipping him than entering into the rhythm of Church Year.


*Proclamation of Date of Easter 2005:

Dear brothers and sisters:

The glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return. Through the rhythms of times and seasons, let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year's culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising, celebrated between the evening of the twenty-fourth of March and the evening of the twenty-sixth of March. Each Easter as on each Sunday, the Holy church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death.

From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the ninth of February.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the eighth of May.

Pentecost, the joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the fifteen of May.

And this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the twenty-seventh of November.

Likewise, the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history, be endless praise forever and ever.


**Some are concerned that the Harry Potter books will draw young people into the occult. It could happen, but I see a more subtle danger: The Harry Potter cult might reinforce the expectation that many people, both adults and children, already have regarding technology and science, namely, that they will deliver things that magic and religion only promised. Vice presidential candidate John Edwards played on that expectation by claiming, "When John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again." What he meant was that if they were elected, they would have promoted massive government expenditures for experiments on human embryos with the hopes of finding cures for cancer, diabetes, heart attacks - and perhaps eventually for all human ailments.

Spanish Version

From Archives:

Epiphany Sunday 2009: A Glimpse of the Mystery
2008: Where the Sun Is
2006: When Worlds Collide
2005: A Powerful River
2004: The Last Man
2003: The Materialist and the Magicians
2002: Astrology and the Christ Child
2001: Together with His Mother
2000: False Promises of Old Millennium

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Magic vs. Faith, Center on Disease Control Statement on Receiving from Common Cup, Tsunami Relief)

Preaching Schedule (January - May 2005)

Atheists Deserve Their Own Holiday

How you can help Tsunami Victims (Catholic Relief Service report)

Read the Bible in a Year


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