• Mass Times

• Coming Events

• Sacraments

• Ministries

• Parish Staff

• Consultative Bodies

• Photo Gallery

• Virtual Tour

• History

• Contribute


• Bulletin

• In Your Midst

• Pastor's Desk


• Becoming Catholic

• Bookstore

• Faith Formation

• Funerals

• Immigrant Assistance

• Liturgy

• Mental Health

• Music

• Outreach/Advocacy

• Pastoral Care

• Weddings

• Young Adults

• Youth Ministry




The Epiphany of the Lord
January 2, 2022

Watch this homily! (Begins at 39:30)

   The Epiphany is many things: the star, the Magi, the journey, the Child, the gifts. The star speaks of a God who calls but never coerces, who guides, but ever so gently; the Magi speak of searching and seeking, wondering and wandering; they speak, too, of outsiders becoming insiders and of the surprising breadth of God’s embrace, the wideness of God’s mercy. The journey they make speaks of faith and hope: the risk of faith and the power of hope. The Child speaks of a God whose ways are not our ways - for who would ever expect God to be a helpless child in the arms of his mother?

     And the gifts?  I used to think that the gifts the Magi offered the Christ child spoke more about them than about him: that they were a statement about their world, their values, maybe even their needs. For what possible need could the child have had for such lavish and impractical gifts? But the early Fathers of the Church found rich symbolism in those gifts. They saw each of them as an epiphany that revealed something about the child: the gold revealed his kingship, the frankincense, his priesthood, the myrrh, the death he would one day die.

     That’s another way of saying that the Magi’s gifts speak of the gift this child is to the world, the gift he is to each of us – this child who is a king like no other: a priestly king, a servant king who came to give his life for the world.

     So, yes, the Epiphany is the star, the Magi, the journey, the child, the gifts. And it is even more: the Epiphany is also empty hands and full hearts. The Magi, their hands full of precious things, followed the star. When they found the child, they emptied their hands only to find their hearts full, for the child gave these sophisticated seekers a gift that was greater by far than the gifts they had brought: the child gave them new horizons and new hope and in doing so, brought them to their knees.

     And then there’s the other lead character in the story: King Herod. He’s the perfect counterpoint to the Magi. Herod could see in the child only one thing: a threat to himself and to his world – a threat to all he held dear: his wealth, his power, his rule. Unlike the Magi, Herod’s hands and heart were far too closed to receive the gift that was the child.

     And what about us? If we are to receive the gift of the child, we must open our hearts and empty our hands as the Magi did: let go of the things we cling to, the things we crave, the things we find it hard to part with – money or material things that weigh us down, or less tangible things like our selfishness, our harsh judgments, our prejudices, our over-reaching ambitions, our aggressions, our refusals to forgive.

     All of which reminds me of a little reflection on the Epiphany that Archbishop Hunthausen sent to his friends at Christmas many years ago. It spoke to me then and it still speaks to me. Maybe it will to you:

If, as with Herod,
we fill our lives with things,
and again with things;
and if we consider ourselves so important
that we fill every moment of our lives with action --
when will we have the time
to make the long slow journey
across the burning desert as did the Magi?
Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds?
Or ponder in our hearts the coming of the child as did Mary?
For each of us there is a desert to travel,
a star to discover,
and a being within ourselves
to bring to life.

     My friends, Christmas and Epiphany are Magi moments. We empty our hands, generously giving gifts to family and friends. We do this because at the heart of Christmas and Epiphany is the One who is himself pure gift, the One who is the Father’s gift from all eternity, the One who comes to give that gift to us, comes to give Himself to us.

     To receive this Gift we must empty our hands as the Magi emptied theirs. We must free ourselves – let go of things that don’t really count, let go of everything that is contrary to the Child and what he stands for. Only in this way will we create in our hearts and in our lives a space empty enough and big enough to receive the Gift beyond all other gifts.

     That gift is ours for the taking, my friends. It comes – He comes – to us in many ways if only we have eyes to see. And, of course, he comes to us now. In the Eucharist we celebrate and receive!

Father Michael G. Ryan





Return to St. James Cathedral Parish Website

804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303