1-8-2017 The Epiphany of the Lord
Mar 1, 2017
Epiphany / A / 2017
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
We celebrate today the great Feast of the Epiphany—we are still in the Christmas season, celebrating that the Word has become flesh and dwells among us. The word epiphany means "manifestation," or "appearance," or "revelation" itself. Jesus has been born into the world—God has appeared, God is made "manifest" among us. And not just for Israel, but for all the nations. That is the Epiphany mystery.
Isaiah the prophet speaks of this in the first reading. Isaiah recognizes that the "glory of the Lord" shines upon Israel, while the world is covered in "darkness" and "thick clouds."
But Isaiah also sees beyond this darkness, to a time when all nations will stream towards the light of Jerusalem, when "the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you . . . all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord."
The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, of course, in Jesus Christ—the light of the nations. And that brings us to the Gospel and today’s feast.
We are introduced to "magi from the east" who are seeking "the newborn king of the Jews." These magi represent the longing of the Gentiles for the Messiah—the longing of the world in darkness for the light of Christ.
The word magi has roots in ancient Persia and refers to an astronomer or an astrologer. Perhaps a better understanding of the magi is to call them the learned men and women of other cultures who seek—without knowing it—the true and living God. What the Gospel writers want us to consider is that all ancient philosophy, all ancient religions, all ancient learning and wisdom has been seeking this "unknown God"—remember St. Paul preaching in Athens at the temple of the "unknown God." Now this God is revealed—in light, in a star.
The magi "saw this star at its rising," and they have come to Jerusalem to look for the child. Interestingly, while they are in Jerusalem, they lose sight of the star. Their own observations of nature could only take them so far. They need Revelation, they need the Scriptures, to find their way to Bethlehem. When they move forward, the star, the light, reappears, and the magi are "overjoyed" because it leads them to Jesus. In gratitude, they prostrate themselves, present their gifts, and worship the new-born king.
All of us are like the magi, seekers, inquirers, filled with wonder, looking for goodness and truth. And we follow stars, too. But this can be a little tricky! Sometimes we are blinded by too many stars—and become starry-eyed!
Or, we focus on the brightest and most brilliant star, only to learn later that it was a "shooting star," a comet or meteor—full of light and promise, but short-lived. Such stars take us in the wrong direction, towards pleasures and behaviors that can be destructive.
The real star leads us to Christ, and it will not disappoint us. It promises, and it delivers.
In fact, that star has led us into this church, where we, too, kneel before the Christ-child and present our gifts.
May we keep our eyes focused on this true light, this true star, that brings peace, hope, and joy.