The Feast of the Epiphany – what an amazing celebration. Each year, in the middle of the silly season in this country we mark the many showings of Jesus – the arrival of the wise travellers, the baptism of Jesus and the wedding feast of Cana, to say nothing of the constant manifestation of Jesus the Christ throughout time and to all peoples.
This year at our church in Johnsonville on the feast of the Epiphany we were treated to an enlivening homily, based on ‘three’. We were alerted to the three gifts, the way we assume there were three wise men, and three points to remember. The three points were ‘manifestation’, ‘homage’ and ‘smile’. Our visiting priest moved around the sanctuary to stress his often repeated points and after Mass there were little groups of people discussing his homily. Even now, several days later, that homily is well remembered. ‘Manifestation ‘ reminded us of all the ways Christ is shown to us; ‘smile’ reminded us that gifts need to be given with a smile. ‘Homage’, about respect for God, the Holy Name, the Eucharist presence and other sacramental practices set me wondering.
Pope Francis with his ‘Laudato Si’, and the writings of many other people, including members of our Aotearoa New Zealand family, have set me thinking about the Epiphany and the incarnation. Homage must surely go far beyond the way we genuflect or bow our heads. Homage must surely be offered to the whole of Earth that the incarnate God is part of. Every time I reflect on who I am I realise how much more I still have to learn and how much more I have to practice giving homage to everything around me. I am a ‘tar-sealed’ person, I have never lived in the country-side. I love the country-side and the beach but take so much for granted. When I walk on the beach or look out from the top of the Wainuiomata hill at the amazing vista that is the greater Wellington or talk with people in the supermarket, I am filled with a sense of homage. I am amazed that all this variety exists in the tiny speck of dust that is Earth. I am filled with wonder and can only give homage to the God who is in all this and who chose to be Christ among us. The sacramental and devotional practices of homage only have meaning if they reflect the homage we give to all beings of Earth and the whole Cosmos, images of the incarnate God.
In the meantime I am bewildered by the conflicts that exist among peoples. Differences are stressed, lives and countries are destroyed, hopes are demolished, violence erupts and relationships collapse. Perhaps we need to practice homage towards one another amongst whom the incarnate God is made manifest. Maybe we can learn from Dominic who was a great example of homage as he profoundly respected the innkeeper and others who were different.
During the summer weeks, when our suburb has been almost empty, I have heard many clear voices, human, bird and animal; I have noticed things like the dandelions growing on the school grounds outside our window, I have been called to give homage on many different levels.
Margaret Butler OP