Solemnity of our Lord’s Epiphany — Cycle C — 2019
FIRST READING Isaiah 60:1-6
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for 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, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.
SECOND READING Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations 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.
GOSPEL Matthew 2:1-12
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Jesus is revealed as God. This is the meaning of Epiphany. Jesus comes as a baby born of Mary. Founding the belief that this was truly God born of flesh necessitated an extraordinary revelation. Some of us have types of spiritual experiences in which we come to recognize what God is asking of us. Some of us never have those types of experiences. Yet, all of us are called to seek to live as fully and completely as we can in this life. What is both marvelous and ironic is that this revelation of Jesus is the new New Thing that always was and forever shall be.
To coin a phrase at the end of the last century before the technology bubble burst in Silicon Valley in California, authors and reporters were hungry to discover the next wave of technology, or the new New Thing, and the next wave of successful entrepreneurs. This drive to discover, like contemporary magi, led many down wrong paths with doomed businesses and business owners. People realized during that heady time that what was revealed was not always trustworthy…or true. Certainly not epiphany.
Jesus revealed, on the other hand, gifts us with a portal to catch glimpses of God in our lives. Epiphany can occur when we see something so beautiful that we believe only a God could have created it. Or, it can occur when we have heard a passionate piece of music that touched something with us. In a direct way, someone speaking of God thus bringing us to belief is also epiphany.
The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, speaks of a vague knowledge of the future when the fortunes of Jerusalem will change. This inner and deep longing and even belief that change is possible is part of Epiphany. Our ancestors anticipated the new thing for generations. This longing for future glory, as a nation and as a people of God, draws people towards Epiphany.
The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians and states that this experience of God is for all peoples, Jews and Gentiles alike. That is simply a way of stating that God’s salvation is for all. Everyone is invited to share the salvation given to us by God. This new New Thing may have surprised the early recipients, but it was God’s plan all along. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb 13:8). The Gentiles may be astounded, even thrilled. But, to our Hebrew forefathers, this was all in the making. Salvation is offered to the Jews in a new way. However, for the Gentiles, this represented a new New Thing.
The magi from the East came looking for the Christ Child because of something that they saw in the skies. It sounds unusual for us today, but such things happened all through history. Again, the seekers and the curious looking for the new New Thing. Their arrival in Judea makes Herod uneasy about his position as ruler of Judea. Yet, when these magi finally meet the baby Jesus, they bow in worship and head home in another way, having been told in a dream to do so.
The Epiphany experience reveals to us that God exists and God seeks us actively to draw us into union with Him. In today’s celebration we rejoice that Christ is born, King of the Jews and King of all who seek salvation. For some the search is over, or, for others just beginning. Let us rejoice in His birth and know that He seeks us. May the Holy Child embrace us this day. May we joyfully return that embrace.