Homily – January 6, 2019

I hope to be taking a course at Glendon College beginning the middle of this month. It is a course on Populism. Populism has been described as a range of political approaches that deliberately appeal to people who feel they have been shorthanded by society or people who bear a grudge at society because they see themselves at the bottom of the later. Populist politicians are divisive, setting people against one another. The immigrant, the refugee, the stranger are a threat to someone else’s job security. They are going to over-tax the resources of our social services, our schools, our affordable housing resources. Populist politicians conjure up ‘enemies.’ For Hitler it was the Jews, for Mussolini it was the Masons. Today it’s the Muslims especially if they are refugees. Populism is raising its ugly head in the U.S., in Canada, and in Europe.

Populism flies in the face of today’s feast of the Epiphany. These strangers from the East symbolize the truth that the infant they sought came to bring salvation to men and women of every tribe and tongue. This feast of the Epiphany is a feast of openness, a feast of welcome.

The great meaning of Epiphany is expressed in our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, ‘The Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The Jewish people were and still the people of God. They treasured and protected their privileged place in God’s eyes. They never forgot the ancient promise spoken so many times in their scriptures ‘I will be you God and you will be my people.

Our early church was made up of Jewish men and women who came to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was their promised Messiah. He was not the victorious liberator they expected but a crucified savior who by his death and resurrection made peace with humanity and God. As our faith spread to other people the Jewish Christians resented their presence and insisted they follow the Jewish law of circumcision and dietary laws. They were the populists of those days. They resented the presence of Gentiles, the outsiders in the community. Paul fought these people tooth and nail and even Peter had to admit that any person of any nationality who did what was right was acceptable to God.

St. Peter put another after his encounter with Cornelius, a gentile Roman centurion, ‘The thing I have come to realize is this, and that any person of any nationality who does what is right is acceptable to God’

Now the question is, are we wise enough to live this truth and the openness of this feast of Epiphany and love and accept and respect men and women of different faiths or no faith, men and women of different social and racial and cultural backgrounds, men and women of different life styles? Are we wise enough to see through the narrowmindedness and especially the deviseness of populist politicians, be they local or national? May we be wise enough to see that refugees and immigrants to Canada are not a threat but a blessing to our country. May our prayer for each other today be that we all be wise enough to seek a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ and what he taught and what he did? He died for us all because he loves us all no matter where we come from, what we believe, how we live our lives.