Don't take yourselves too seriously

Readings: Is. 60.1-6; Ps. 72; Eph. 3.2-6; Mt. 2.1-12

The word Epiphany comes from the Greek word "epi-phai-neo" which means to "make manifest." This feast celebrates the manifestation of the newborn Jesus to the whole world. Traditionally, the three wisemen are portrayed as kings whose skin colors are white representing Europe, black representing Africa, and yellow representing Asia.

We all know that missionaries carried Jesus' message to the whole world century by century, country by country. On this Epiphany, how might we in our homes make Jesus more manifest? Jesus dwells within each one of us. Each of us wants to make Jesus known by our actions, and we want to perceive Jesus in the other person with whom we are dealing.

Sin affects the manifestation of Jesus within us, and affects our perception of Jesus within others. I want to deal with one of the seven capital sins: anger. While we all want the holidays to be especially happy, they oftentimes become times of tension and anger. Our stress levels are raised because we have so many preparations to make for the holidays, so many visitors to host, plus many of us eat and drink too much during the holidays, and sleep and pray too little. Tension builds, and our anger shows itself. Sometimes our anger seems to get the best of us. And ironically, this happens oftentimes in the Christmas and Epiphany seasons when we especially desire to manifest our belief in and show love for God and one another.

May I suggest that we analyze our anger, anticipate situations in which we are most likely to become angry, and look to Jesus and the saints for examples on how to deal with inevitable anger.

  1. Analyze your anger. Why, when, and how do you become angry? Anger originates within us; it is not someone or some situation that creates our anger. We choose whether or not to respond with anger to certain people and situations. Anger is a virtue, but we can fail by too much or too little anger. Most of us are conscious of too much anger at times. But I suspect there are many more times when we should become angry, e.g., at countless injustices, and at our own and the world's sins; we would benefit from pondering our sins of omission as well as our sins of commission. Anger hurts people. It hurts the angry person physiologically, psychologically, spiritually, and in relationships; and anger hurts the recipient of someone's anger. Hurtful words can last a lifetime. Analyze your anger.
  2. Anticipate situations of anger. Granted, some situations arise spontaneously, and surprise us. And we might be surprised at how much anger we show. You know what angers off. Be prepared as you approach that person or situation. Put on your best smiling face, and most positive attitude. Be realistic: some people just bring out the worst in us.
  3. Learn from Jesus and the saints. As I had said earlier, anger is a virtue. Jesus became angry at the moneychangers in the temple; St. Paul became angry at the Corinthians for forsaking the faith so soon, and at the Thessalonians for not working because they thought the world would end very soon. Jesus and the saints were quick to forgive, and without giving long speeches. They prayed for the people who hurt them. I suspect they tried to understand what made other people do what they did. Jesus and the saints took quiet time to be by themselves. They also spent time with best friends. We need friends with whom to laugh, and may I suggest some confidante with whom we can ventilate, but not ten confidantes; just one who can help us to keep our balance.
  4. And lastly, don't take ourselves too seriously. Each one of us has a long list of shortcomings; just ask the people who either live with us, or work with us. Each of us is a mystery, made in the image and likeness of God. Let's try our best to manifest that image of God, and to see God's image in other people. Today we celebrate the revelation of Jesus to the world. Don't let our anger get in the way of making God more manifest in our homes, and in our world.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley