Sunday, 1/3/2020, The Epiphany of the Lord
The Glory of the Lord Shines upon You
First Reading Commentary: Isaiah 60:1-6
No one would give Mary and Joseph a room. There was no midwife to help with the birth of Jesus. They had to resort to staying in a stable and Jesus had a manger for a crib. With such humble surroundings, the manifestation of the Lord, which is the Epiphany, occurred.
The magi came to pay homage to the newborn baby who they believed would be the king of nations. In accordance with today’s prophecy from Isaiah, they came from far away bearing gifts and because they were not Jews; the visit by the magi was a manifestation that Christ was born into the world for the salvation of all mankind.
Isaiah said, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!” Once again, we must remember that Isaiah’s prophecy is as much about the second coming of Christ as it is the first. Everything in this prophecy points to the Book of Revelation and to the promise of the Kingdom made by Christ. Isaiah was calling for Jerusalem to take its place as the New Jerusalem: The Kingdom of Heaven.
Christ is the Light that has come to shine upon us in glory and lead us to the New Jerusalem. People of all nations are God’s children and people will come from all over the earth to be in the Kingdom. Those who enter the Kingdom shall be radiant and their hearts shall throb as they give praise and glory to God.
Today, we celebrate Christ being revealed to the world as the One who will make the promise of the Kingdom of Heaven, sacrifice His life to forge the path for us to follow and then provide His Light to lead the way.
It may seem strange to us that Christ would come into the world in such a humble way but this is another reminder that God’s Kingdom is not of this world. Through faith, we stay focused and remember that Christ did not come to be a worldly king but Christ is the King of Kings in heaven and His glory shines upon us.
As we celebrate the Epiphany, we cannot help but consider the humility with which Christ came into the world and manifested Himself to us. We may be in awe and wonder at how God does the things that He does including His Epiphany to us in the person of the Son. But our question should be, how do we manifest ourselves to God?
The Epiphany Is for Everyone
Second Reading Commentary: Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Paul continues the message of the Epiphany in this part of his letter to the Ephesians. Things which were not made known, to other generations, were made known (manifested) to himself and the Apostles by the Spirit. It is Christ who was manifested to Paul and the Apostles and the manifestation came by the Spirit because of the Spirit’s gift of faith which is needed in order to believe.
The fact that Christ came for all of mankind is made clear by Paul. He says that the Gentiles are co-heirs. Because we are all God’s children, we are all heirs to the Kingdom, Jews and Gentiles alike.
Paul says that the Gentiles are members of the same body. Once again, Paul is telling us that we are all God’s children, but Paul is also telling us that we are all part of the Mystical Body of Christ. The body has many parts and each part has a specific function in the body. Each of us is an individual part of the Mystical Body with a specific function which is God’s plan for us as individuals in life.
Finally, Paul says that the Gentiles are co-partners in the promise. Here, Paul is talking about the promise of the Kingdom of Heaven. When Christ gave us, the Beatitudes promising the Kingdom, He did not limit His promise to any one group of people. Nor did he exclude any group of people. The promise of the Kingdom was made to all of mankind which makes everyone a co-partner.
What was manifested to Paul and the Apostles is also a manifestation for all of us. Everyone who believes is an heir who will inherit, become an active member performing his/her function and a co-partner who will receive his/her fair share in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Do Him Homage
Gospel Commentary: Matthew 2:1-12
We all know the story of the three Wise Men who came to visit the baby Jesus presenting him with treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But what can we learn from the events which surround the Epiphany of the Lord? The answer is within the word Epiphany itself. All of the prophecies about the coming of Christ and all of the promises made by Christ of things to come are all manifested in the birth of Christ.
It is not the visitation of the magi to the baby Jesus that we celebrate but the reason for their visit. They came to pay homage to the Newborn King who would be the King of Nations. They probably did not understand that His Kingdom was not of this world, but they knew the prophecies and had faith that this newborn baby was the King of Kings. They came from far away and were not Jews which is, a manifestation that Christ came for people of all nations and that people from all nations would give Him glory.
As we look at Matthew’s Gospel for the Epiphany, the first thing that we see is Herod and all of Jerusalem being troubled by the news from the Magi that they had seen the star of the newborn king. Herod was both a proud and jealous man so he did not want to see the Jews have a king for fear that this new King of the Jews would rule him as well. This was the motive for Herod wanting to find and kill the baby Jesus.
Jesus came into the world reliving the Old Testament. Consider Moses. Pharaoh had been warned of the birth of the one who would lead the Israelites out of Egypt which is why Pharaoh ordered the killing of all first-born Israelite sons. Herod’s wanting to kill Jesus at birth is more than a comparison to Moses. It is a manifestation that Jesus came to lead all of us on our exodus to His Kingdom in heaven.
Matthew saying that all of Jerusalem was troubled with Herod at the news of the magi is a blanket statement which should not be taken in a literal sense. To do so would suggest that all Jews in Jerusalem rejected Christ which is not true. Matthew made his comment because, in the end, it was Jews who persecuted Jesus and demanded that He be crucified. I see this as Matthew telling us that we cannot look at the Epiphany and limit what we see to the birth of Christ and the visitation of the Magi.
Consider this: We are no better than the Jews who persecuted Jesus because we all do the same thing when we sin. The difference is that the Jews who wanted Jesus crucified knew that they were persecuting Jesus. Most of us do not stop to think about Jesus being persecuted all over again with each of our sins. But like the Jews who persecuted Jesus, we don’t care. We are too caught up in the moment of our sinfulness to care and that is why we are no better.
The Israelites did not have Moses put to death, but they certainly gave Moses more than enough trouble. Moses was a constant intercessor for the Israelites. He constantly asked God to provide for the Israelites and to take care of them. Moses even pleaded with God to spare the Israelites after they had committed sins of idolatry.
Likewise, Jesus, the Son, is our intercessor to the Father. Jesus is always there looking out for our needs. He not only gave His life for our sake but from the cross, Jesus pleaded with the Father on behalf of those who were crucifying Him when He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The Magi told Herod that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem according, to the prophecy in Micah 5:1 and they gave Herod the timing of the star’s appearance. So, Herod said to the Magi, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” We know that this was a lie because Herod wanted to kill Jesus and was using the Magi to find Him.
So, the Magi set out for Bethlehem following the star until it stopped and they were overjoyed when they saw Mary and the baby Jesus. Then they prostrated themselves, did Him homage and presented Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Again, we have all heard this many times before, but we should stop for a moment to meditate on it.
Place yourself in the time of the Magi. There were no planes, trains or cars and roads as we know them did not exist either. The magi traveled by camel from far-away lands. Their journey had to have taken weeks if not months. The mere fact that the magi went to so much trouble to see the baby Jesus is testament to the Epiphany of the Lord. But there is more.
When the Magi finally did get to see Jesus, they prostrated themselves and did him homage. They were not taken back or disappointed by the humble surroundings. They did not loose faith due to the fact, that there was nothing to suggest that this baby was of royalty. They kept their faith not understanding the true destiny of Jesus. They simply believed that Jesus was the King of Kings. These Magi, who were not Jews, paid Jesus homage when many of His own people would not even accept who He was.
Then came; the gifts. Not just any gifts but treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Think of how heavy gold is and how tough it must have been to transport that treasure on their long and difficult journey. Then think about what their gifts represented. Gold: a gift for kings. Frankincense: a gift of prayer and respect and that is why the Church uses it at Mass and other occasions. Myrrh: a gift signifying that the Magi believed that this child by His death and Resurrection would redeem the world.
When we stop to think about all of these things about the magi, we should be drawn to look within and ask ourselves some serious questions. How much homage are we willing to pay to the Lord? Some of us claim to have faith but will not go to church. And for those of us who do go to church; how much are we willing to give to our church or do for our church? Some people are stingy when it comes to giving to their church and never seem to have time to do anything for their church.
Today’s Gospel ends with the Magi being warned in a dream not to return to Herod so they departed for their country by another way. God made the Magi a part of His plan. God led the Magi to the baby Jesus and their visit proclaims the manifestation of Christ. It also gives us cause to look within reconsidering our dedication to our faith and our church. But God also made the Magi instruments in protecting Jesus by warning them to go home by another way.
The Magi are important figures because they show us what the Epiphany is all about. The Epiphany is the manifestation of Christ in all of His glory as our Savior and our King. It is to Him that we owe all praise and honor and glory.