The Feast of the Epiphany (Manifestation) of the Lord. 03rd January 2021
The feast of Epiphany that we celebrate today symbolizes God’s public manifestation in a concrete way to the three wise men of the East. They have become known most commonly as Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. The child that was born on Christmas is revealed to be the long-awaited king of the Jews. Most of the Orthodox Christians including our Byzantine rite Catholics celebrate Christmas today (Jan. 07th) as the manifestation of the Lord for humanity. So if you meet any Orthodox Christians today or tomorrow you can wish them happy Christmas. There is a discrepancy between the Julian and Gregorian calendars of 13 days.
I. We are pilgrims and seekers
Our life as pilgrims on earth often turns out to be seekers. We always seek meaning for our life, for our actions, and for our commitments. We seek not only from our external senses but also from our internal eyes. We are able to draw meaning from our inner thoughts. We are able to perceive sometimes through the deepest silence of our hearts. The three magi or representatives from the East come to see baby Jesus. They were not part of the religion or tribe of Jesus. But God had revealed to them that something marvellous has happened in Bethlehem. They were educated in astrology, the study of the galaxy and its uncountable stars. In fact, they had not read what Isaiah had written about the promised saviour to the Israelites.
In contrast, though king Herod not a foreigner and living close to Bethlehem was not a seeker; he was not revealed by God. When magi ask him about the newly born child in his territory he is terrified. The foreignness of magi is not thwarted but given the opportunity to have a glance over what they were seeking for. Whereas King Herod becomes a symbol of alienness for having unable to see in his own land the glory of God. St. Paul, therefore, says that the mystery that was foretold by the prophets has been revealed not only to the Jews but also to the pagans, the gentiles, in other words to all the non-Jews. We celebrate today our own entrance into the family of God, and the fulfillment of God’s plan that all nations be united with Israel as co-heirs to His Fatherly blessings, as Paul reveals in today’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Today, we are invited to reflect on the revelation of God’s love for us and the unveiling of a promise in Christ Jesus.
II. Arrogance leads nowhere
One of the lessons that we learn from history is that kings like Herod and dictators in spite of having all army, informers, and treasury at their disposal are still vulnerable to human frailty and are afraid of others, who can be a threat to their power. Unlike the shepherds who visited Baby Jesus at an early stage, the magi were strangers, foreigners, total outsiders coming to give royal homage to this tiny child. And somehow this star represented a call that was heavenly. As the priests and scribes interpret the prophecies in today’s Gospel, Jesus is the ruler expected from the line of King David, whose greatness is to reach to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:1–3; 2 Samuel 5:2). It was a stirring within them that gave them the incentive and the courage to leave behind what had given their lives meaning, gave them the strength to set out on a road that risked everything. Even with the conveniences their wealth offered, it would be a long and painful and even, possibly, dangerous journey. What kept them going was the call, the star that travelled before them. This will be the theme of Matthew's Gospel. “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations.”
III. Every gift has a purpose
The gold came to symbolize the kingship of Christ, the incense of his divine nature, and the myrrh of his redemptive suffering and death. They also came to signify virtue, prayer and suffering. All in all, today's feast is telling us that for God there are no foreigners, no outsiders. From his point of view, all are equally his beloved children. We all, whatever external physical or cultural differences there may be between us, finally, we belong to one single-family which has one Father, “our” Father. It means that every one of us is a brother and sister to everyone else. There is no room for discrimination of any kind based on nationality, race, religion, class or occupation. There cannot be a single exception to this position.
The wise men did not know where the star would lead them. They just followed it until it brought them to Bethlehem - and to Jesus. They never, I am sure, regretted their decision. If we can only have the courage and the trust to follow their example, I doubt if we will have regrets either. If we have not already done so, today is the day to make that start. We must offer to Him our very lives in thanksgiving. No lesser gift will suffice for this newborn King. As the magi adored Jesus in the manger, let us renew our commitment to serve Him and Him alone, placing our gifts—our prayers, intentions, actions and talents—on the altar during the Eucharist. So, this year, let us begin our journey together from far-away places guided by the light of our faith, to discover that which matters most---that which renews us and brings us to new life. I am certain that when we follow the path illuminated by our faith, we will find hope, and hope, will know us by name.
Question for Reflections:
1. Could you recollect those wise men and women who came into your life and made a difference in your life and put you on the center stage of this world?
2. Could we reflect upon what has been revealed to us.......what is still being revealed to.......where our faith leads us to........and whom we might meet along our spiritual journey?
3. As we begin our travel through a new year, what are the gifts we bring along with us that symbolize the manifestation of God's love, and the message of salvation, as the sacred mystery unfolds?
4. If you could give one gift to this Holy Family, what would it be? . . . in prayer, make your offering . . .
God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and Spirit of God amidst us, direct our way unto you. Just as you manifested yourself to unknown people make us to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men and women, even as we do toward you. Grant us the grace to establish in our hearts unblameable in holiness and purity in our intentions. Make your presence known to those who have turned away from You and do not seek You, so that none of them may be lost, but all may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, so that everyone, in true love and harmony, may praise your all-holy Name. Amen.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
02 December 2020