The Epiphany of the Lord
January 2, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Is 60:1-6 / Ps 72 / Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 / Mt 2:1-12
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today we celebrate the feast of the Magi, or of the Epiphany. This feast is called Epiphany because Jesus revealed Himself, not only to the Jews, the chosen people, but also to pagan visitors. The word epiphany is from the Greek word, epiphaneia, which means manifestation. In other words, Epiphany is first and foremost the feast of God’s revelation of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, to the world. Jesus is Savior, not only of the Israelites, the chosen people, but of everyone. In this sense, the Magi represent all the other peoples of the world.
Our gospel this morning, Matthew 2:1-12, tells the story of how God guided the three wise men to the Baby Jesus by means of a special star. How nice it would be for each of us to have a star to guide us in the right direction. As Father Frank Mihalic says in his book, A Thought for Today, all of us have stars to follow, but they are not moving across the heavens. Our stars today are right down here on earth with us. What are those stars? Our stars are people and places and things that show us the way, that inspire us, that attract us.
Sometimes people are our stars. Today, we call famous singers, athletes, or actors “stars.” Young people make heroes out of these “stars” and imitate their speech, dress, ideas, movements, etc. In the same way, we follow the religious heroes we call saints. We take their names and try to follow their examples. They are the stars that guide us to Jesus and to God. Sometimes a good example can be a star, because it pulls us and draws us. A good idea can be a star, perhaps from something we have heard or read. Sometimes even sickness or pain can be a star. These things may make us useless for a while, but they give us time to reflect and think.
The Bible is also a star. Even King Herod brought the three wise men into contact with the Bible. The Bible is an excellent guide for people looking for Jesus. But the Bible is not enough, because we need people who can explain it. Many people go around with a Bible today, but it is sad that many use it not to lead us to the meaning of Jesus’ words, but to convince us of their own personal interpretation.
Jesus didn’t give us the New Testament. It was the Christian community that accepted His word and transmitted part of it to us through the Bible. Without the Christian community, we would have no Gospels today. We still need the Church’s help to understand it. That is why the Church has what we call “tradition” to explain what is written in the scriptures. Of course, Jesus Christ is our guiding star to God, because He is our way, our truth, and our life.
Unfortunately, there is such a thing as following the wrong star. We do that when we look down and not up. Perhaps I can explain that with an example. On a clear night, we can see stars reflected in pans of water. No matter how dirty the water is, we see the stars there. Since it is easier to reach down than up, many people reach down into muddy waters for their stars. They find out that those were not real stars down there.
People who reach down, not up, for their stars, are those who follow money, sex, drink, power, popularity, etc. They follow these but perhaps end up in a swamp where there are also reflections of stars. But remember, they are not real stars. Look upward, not downward, for your stars. One day you will win and have stars in your eyes, as we describe people who are very happy.
Epiphany also reminds us of gifts, especially those gifts we receive from God. Various interpretations have been given for the gifts which the Magi offered the Christ Child. The Church teaches us that the gold represents kingly power, the incense represents the great high priest, and the myrrh represents the burial of the Lord. The three gifts of the wise men depict the threefold character of Christ: King, High Priest, and Man.
Saint Gregory, in his reflections, looks at the Magi’s gifts from the viewpoint of the givers. He invites us to see, in the gold the quest for wisdom, in the incense the power of prayer, and in the myrrh, the mortification of the flesh.
To fully understand the feast of the Epiphany, it must be viewed from two aspects: that of God who manifested Himself to man, and that of man, exemplified in the Magi, who responded with wholehearted faith and love. As we join the Magi in offering our gifts to the newborn king, we realize that Jesus is the true gift, God’s gift to the world. He is the one that we must receive in order to bring Him, in turn, to everyone we will meet in our life journey.
Today the world has a greater need than ever to experience God’s divine goodness, to feel God’s love for every person. People need to hear the message of light and hope and give glory to the Father. With joy, we ask the Lord of time, the God from God, Light from Light, to make His star, the Epiphany star, continually shine in our hearts.