A Reflection by Fr. Kingsley for the Epiphany of the Lord, Year A.
Isaiah 60:1-6 – Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 – Matthew 2:1-12.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The origin of the name ‘Epiphany’ is the Greek “Epiphaneia”, which means “a manifestation”, “a striking appearance” and “a coming to a sudden and striking realisation”. On this Solemnity, we celebrate the glory of the Lord “as light having come … rising on … the peoples”. The Epiphany is when we celebrate the manifestation of Jesus, who is the Light of the world. He appeared/manifested Himself not only to the Jews, the Chosen People, but also to the Gentiles. In other words, He manifested Himself to the whole world.
He is the light (Jn 8:12). Today is the feast of His light shining upon us all. He does not shine for His own sake or upon just a chosen few. He is the light of all nations, as Simeon prophesied at the Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:32). When we point out where He was born – ‘Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea’ – and where He grew up – ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ – we also need to point out that He who was born for us was born to offer salvation to the whole of humanity.
How do we know that He came for the whole world? From the Infancy Narratives, we learn that He did not restrict the knowledge of His coming solely to the Jews (represented by the shepherds), but revealed Himself to the ‘wise men from the East’ (who represent the Gentiles). In today’s 2nd Reading St. Paul, reflecting on this, declared that, “it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel.” It follows that all those who have received Jesus, the Light of the world, have to shine like the moon (reflecting the light of the sun) in the moral and metaphysical darkness of the world. Arise, children of God and bearers of the light of Christ, and shine!
In what form did He show himself? The Lord showed Himself in a form perceptible specifically to the various people He met. To the shepherds in Judea, His angels announced that they would find Him in a place that was familiar to them: in a manger. To the Magi, who represent a wide range of people from assorted cultural backgrounds, He used something to which they could relate: the star of the great King. That was what they identified and followed in order to encounter Him.
The shepherds represent the unlettered people in society and those who relate more easily to spiritual realities: to them, He was announced through spiritual means by the message of the angels (Luke 2:8-15). The Magi (wise men) represent the lettered people, the educated people, who relate more easily to logic and argument and, in a more palpable form, to our postmodern world today which focuses on science & technology whose disciplines demand visual or measurable proofs. He was announced to them via the movement of the star.
Special points about the Magi and their visit:
- Tradition has it that there were three wise men, but we don’t actually know how many there were.
- Who were they? Tradition has it that the ‘wise men’ were called Casper, Melchior and Balthasar. They saw a star, so they were astrologers, and they worshipped when they finally encountered Him, so they were religious men. Their scientific knowledge did not preclude them from being religious men.
- They had to ask their way en route, but they got back on track and reached their destination.
- They offered gifts to the Child: gold, frankincense and myrrh, substances which are solid, liquid and gas. What wisdom! These symbolize not only every form of thing that the world contains and is made of but also the status of Jesus as King, Priest and Prophet.
What are the implications of all the above?
It is that in Jesus, God manifests Himself to all peoples. Every individual person has God’s gift of free will either to accept Him or to decline to accept Him.
There is no need for people to think that science has nothing to do with religion. We, in common with the shepherds and the Magi, are all looking for answers to the questions of life. [Hint: here it is – Jesus is the answer.]
Following the Light can lead us to discover mysteries that put us back on the right track when we lose our way. There are many things as yet undiscovered that could bring about a better physical world. With the light of Christ shining on our path, and with our focus on our goal and destiny, we can find ways of making the current world better for ourselves and for others.
We seek Jesus even in our own different careers. In our work, we can end up either finding the Christ we seek or losing our way in the darkness. Follow the example of the Magi and continue to seek Him until you find Him. The world cannot survive without Jesus, the Light of God.
When we find Jesus, we offer Him everything that we own – our spirit as our gold, our soul as frankincense, and our mind & body as myrrh.
And finally… here is something for us to ponder. Are we genuinely disposed to seek Jesus in daily life and to do all we can to find Him whenever we lose sight of Him? Lord, give us the grace to see Your Light shining in us and through us. May You accept our offering of our whole selves to You. Amen.