The Epiphany of the Lord
January 8, 2017
Reading 1IS 60:1-6
Responsorial PsalmPS 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
- (cf. 11) Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
Reading 2EPH 3:2-3A, 5-6
Homily— January 7 & 8, 2017—Feast of the Epiphany
Today we celebrate Epiphany, a feast whose name is a Greek word meaning a manifestation or revelation. Our first question might be just what is revealed as we celebrate today. We often think of this feast as focused on the manifestation of the Christ Child to the world, and this is certainly a valid perspective. However, we might also think of it as a revelation of the plan of God for the salvation of the world, including not only Jews but also all the Gentile nations of the world.
Today’s second reading from Ephesians clearly states: “as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
So Epiphany is not just about three Wise Men finding their way to Bethlehem. They represent all the nations of the earth, just as the shepherds represent the Jewish people in Luke’s nativity story. I plan to come back to this global view later.
So who were the Magi, anyway? Matthew doesn’t tell us. Presumably, there were three because they brought three gifts. We also don’t know exactly what they were. Were they Magi or kings or astrologers? We don’t even know from where they came. All it says is they come from the East.
What was it like for the Magi? What did they expect to see? They must have been confused and feeling a bit out of place, bringing gifts fit for a palace not a cave. They must have had an extensive caravan with food, sundries, and soldiers. When I asked the children at St. Anthony’s School how many came they said three but I suggested it was probably at least 20 or more. When I asked them if they would have liked to have received gold, frankincense and myrrh for Christmas they said yes—even if I took out the gold!!
Without mentioning the Magi, St. Augustine reflected on how human nature was created with a thirst for the divine: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” The Magi were people gifted with what Augustine might have called the grace of holy restlessness. Apparently well-to-do enough to take a long journey and arrive with expensive gifts, they set off with enough interior freedom to be responsive to the Spirit who urged them to look for more than they already had and knew.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey.It was as though they had always been waiting for that star”.
Saint Odilo of Cluny wrote that our response to the Father’s offer of salvation is that of the Magi: "To offer gold is to proclaim Christ’s kingship, to offer incense is to adore his Godhead, and to offer myrrh is to acknowledge his mortality”.
The Magi came from the East to worship the new born King, the baby Jesus. This was a dangerous trip but there was something that inspired them to take a risk and they found the Messiah. Sometimes we are willing to travel at great expense to see a singer, a band, a team for a concert or a ball game. Sometimes people travel to see the world. Imagine how God reveals self to us and to the whole world. I have seen God’s presence in Ireland, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Israel, France, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and of course this United States. I have been asked if there is a place I want to go on my “bucket list” and there is only one; heaven!
God continues to want to reveal self to us and we are called to be open to those opportunities. Make a retreat if you can or a Christian Experience Weekend or read a spiritual book, like the Bible. Allow the light of Christ to guide you in your life and be a light for others. Let the light of Christ shine through you so that others may know of God’s love for them.