HOMILY: Be Not Afraid

The Epiphany of the Lord | January 2/3, 2015

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click hereSalesian Sermons

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on all of this week’s readings.

I still remember my first day as a teacher.

I was a nervous-wreck.  I was so afraid that I would mess it up that I barely made it through the day.  I remember leaving school as soon as the bell rang, racing to my bedroom and throwing up.

I would love to say that it was just a case of the first-day jitters, but it wasn’t.  When I look back, I can now see how afraid I was.

Afraid that I would not be good enough.  That I would ultimately fail.  That maybe I had gotten it all wrong . . . The teaching, The Oblates, the priesthood.

I spent most of those first few months overwhelmed by fear.  And in the process, I could not see the light of Christ shining in unexpected ways and through unexpected people.  

It was not until the very end, after I had pretty much convinced myself that all of my fears were justified, that I realized how blind I had been.  How I had somehow missed how God was working through me to touch the lives of young men who had become calloused by the world.  And in turn, how those young men had somehow shaped me into a real teacher.  A teacher who was no longer afraid to teach.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how powerful fear can become.  How it can distort our perspectives, limit our horizons and straightjacket our future?  

Maybe that is why I sympathize with Herod in our Gospel for today.  For here is a man consumed by fear.  Fear of losing control.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of the future that is unfolding before him.

And in his fear, he moved to anger and hatred.  As if he could overcome his fear by destroying all that caused it.

But, thankfully, Herod is not the only figure on the Biblical stage this day.

For in our Gospel from today we also meet the Magi.  Figures of legendary fame.

And yet, when we really look at their story.  We see men faced with many of the same things to lose as Herod.  

Men who left their own land, their own kingdoms in the pursuit of the unknown.  

Leaders who willingly surrendered their control and wealth and privilege without any guarantee that their search would bear fruit.  

Individuals who leave their encounter with Christ and chart a new path home that will take them into unfamiliar lands with unexpected people.

It is quite a contrast, is it not, between Herod and the Magi.  And yet, I am convinced that we live between this contrast.

Here we are, in the opening days of a new year.  A year filled with promise and potential.  OF new beginnings and uncharted waters.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, many of us enter this year with the same fears that plagued us in the last.  

We fear the uncertainties of these troubled times.  We fear the violence abroad and its threat at home.  We are anxious about the bitter polarization that rends our nation asunder.  

We fear the demons of our past and the unknown trajectories of our future.

We fear losing control, being tossed from our comfort zone and saying goodbye to the ones we love.

We fear failure and regret.  We fear our own potential.  We fear our own mortality.

And yet, as Christians, we know that we are made for something more.  

We too desire to follow the star that leads us to the Christ child who calls us to live differently, to see differently, to love differently.  

We too want to follow the path of the Magi and heed the call to “Be Not Afraid.”

And so, we are presented with a choice.  A choice that will reverberate throughout the year to come.

A choice to live in fear or live in hope.

A choice to cloak ourselves in darkness or slowly embrace the light.

A choice to encounter Christ in each new moment, each new person, each new path in our own journeys.  In the new partners and new children, the new jobs and new schools, the new homes and new neighbors, in the new assignments and the new opportunities that will come to define each of our 2016s if we are open to the possibilities.

A choice to see through our failures and mistakes, our own limitations and uncertainties and glimpse the Christ child who still awaits us and our gifts.

Happy Epiphany my friends.  Be Not Afraid.  The Word has become flesh and dwells among us.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.

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