The Feast Of The Epiphany: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus The Star That Guides All People.”
The Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord is the feast of manifestation. On this day we celebrate the coming of the mysterious strangers from across the desert who had been following heavenly direction and who finally arrived at the source of the brilliance they had seen.
In one way or another, darkness still covers the earth. Sin is everywhere and tomorrow won’t be necessarily better than today. To be on course in the darkness of life is a challenge for all of us each and every day. Important questions we should ask ourselves are: what is the right course, and how can we stay on course?
Christians have a true, unfailing guiding ‘Star’ to help us in our journey, as the readings for this feast of the Epiphany clarify.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
When Isaiah looked around, he saw a city in ruins and a land devastated. When he listened to God’s word, he learned of a city renewed and prosperous. He was assured that as at the creation of the world, light would overcome darkness.
The first reading is more than a poem of extravagant encouragement to the depressed population of a sixth century B.C. hill city. It is a passage that the Church has looked upon as describing the future not of a political kingdom, but of the Kingdom of God.
Isaiah joyfully sings out to the people of Israel: ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…Lift up your eyes and look around… the wealth of all nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you… all those from Sheba will come. They will bring gold and frankincense, to ensure fitting worship in the Temple where God has his home and all shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.’
Isaiah did not see his words fulfilled. He knew, however, that God could never remain hidden. Divine light would shine out. That hope sustained him, as indeed it sustained Israel, and now it sustains us. Jerusalem is once again the centre of the world and she will remain as such forever.
The prophet’s dream becomes true when the light of Christ begins to shine on this city. From that moment Jerusalem is once again the young bride sought by all the peoples of the earth. Who or what does this city represent? It is the Church! She is the one in who shines the light of the Messiah. All peoples are moving towards her, carrying with them the riches of their cultures.
If we take a good look at our Christian communities, we perhaps see a lot of confusion, discord and jealousies. We need to look at them through the eyes of the prophet contemplating Jerusalem.
Even if they are imperfect and frail, our communities are nonetheless beautiful, resplendent with light; and they will always be that way since they glow with the light of Christ.
Psalm 72: 2, 7-8, 10-13.
King David’s successors were such a disappointment that God’s promises seemed to be failing. However the Psalmist did not lose hope. He foresaw a new Davidic king who would bring such justice and peace to God’s people that other nations would stream to him, paying tribute with their gifts.
The Psalm for this Epiphany was originally a hymn for the coronation of an unnamed king of Israel, a none-too-subtle hint to him about how he is to behave. ‘Let him judge your people with justice’, the Psalmist sings, ‘and let the just one flourish in his days’.
Only after this, does the poet venture a prayer about the size of the new king’s dominions: ‘Let him rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth’. Then comes a prayer about the ‘kings of Tarshish and the islands’, who are perhaps hinted at in today’s feast. For the fact is that Christians find fulfilment of this Psalm in the feast of the Epiphany, ‘Let all kings bow before him, all the nations worship him’. Then comes a reminder, not needed by Jesus, but certainly well directed at us, of the need to care for ‘the poor… the oppressed’.
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6.
In the second reading, Paul tells his listeners that God no longer belongs solely to Israel. “The gentiles,” he says, “have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and shares in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel”. The seeds of God’s self-disclosure were first given to Israel. It was nourished in Israel’s soil. It was always meant to enrich the nations, now it has, through Christ.
We are one with God and humanity when all envy, dissensions and wars disappear. A completely new reality is thus born; men and women start living like brothers and sisters, free of suspicions, envy, and hatred. In gratuitous love is how all should live, because we are all children of the same Father.
The Gospel of the Epiphany tells us about the ‘Magi’, the wise men from the East who, guided by a star, came to Bethlehem. There “they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold for a king, frankincense for God, and myrrh ointment for one who is destined to die.”
When Matthew relates the story of the Magi who see the star, the evangelist wants to tell us that the long-awaited deliverer from the house of Jacob has finally come: Jesus is the Messiah that the Magi recognize and worship. Jesus is a manifestation of God’s grace not simply for the people of the first covenant but for all nations. Christian iconography throughout history has captured this meaning as the Magi became, first, three kings (from Psalm 72), but later people of a different place and colour. It is likely that the Epiphany story played a role in putting an end to many prejudices regarding race and culture.
The Magi represented nothing less than a proclamation that God was calling all people, of whatever nation, to an inclusive welcome at the feet of the Messiah. With God there were to be no outsiders. It was an announcement that all in the human race were to be enfolded in God’s loving embrace and that all of us ‘without distinction’ are his children, and that all people are invited to share equally in the Messiah’s blessings of eternal life and unconditional love.
So as we gather together to celebrate the visit of the ‘three outsiders from the East today’, let us recognize that we are all their spiritual descendants. In them we have also been invited to the feet of the Messiah. Let us acknowledge this fact today with thanksgiving and humility.
In the crib, having taken on our humanity, God opens himself to us. God works slowly, but ever so surely! The long awaited Son of God was born as one of us, like us in all things except sin (though he took upon himself our sinfulness). In living out his humanity he became our guiding star of truth.
Throughout our lives we meet others who help and guide us, but we must judge such help and guidance in the light of the person and teaching of Jesus. He and He alone, is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. In Him, and through Him, we will remain on course to our journey’s end.
Later on, Christ would experience rejection – by his own people, even by his intimate associates. Sadly, this rejection is still taking place today when we choose the things of this world as our gods, and by our lack of love for others. Yet in death / Resurrection, he offered himself anew to everyone, and he still stands on the threshold of our lives with arms open wide in a gesture of love and compassion. This gives us the strength to overcome any tendency to retreat into a shell.
Epiphany is truly a feast of “openness”. We too want to worship before the Messiah and we want to leave gifts at his feet as well. The gift that Jesus would cherish most would be our hearts. That is ‘our unconditional love for the Father and for our neighbour.’
God had used the natural means of a ‘Star’ to bring the learned Magi to Jerusalem, but to continue their journey; they needed the revelation of Scripture (Mt. 5:1; Rom. 1:20). Ironically the ones, who enlightened them from the Scriptures, did not use their knowledge to their own advantage. As priests and scribes they were later to mock the King of the Jews as he died on the Cross.
The story of the Magi is a prediction of the future passion, but in it, the saying of Jesus about those who came from the east and the west to enjoy the banquet in the Kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were finding fulfilment; while the sons of the Kingdom were rejecting it.
To find the ‘stable’ of new life and its immense wealth of blessings we must be loving and humble. Like the shepherds and the Magi, we must listen to where God points us and follow that ‘Light’. May we, on this Feast of the Epiphany, seek the solution to life’s mystery in the most unlikely places – with the poorest of the poor, with the disadvantaged, with the forgotten, or with sinners and outcasts. That is where Jesus still looks for those who are lost and that is where we will find him each and every day.
As we join with all people all over the world in worshipping the infant ‘King of the Jews’, let this gift from God become our resolution to recognize God’s children everywhere, whoever they may be, and to welcome them into out hearts.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … The prophet’s dream becomes true when the light of Christ begins to shine on this city. From that moment she is once again the young bride sought by all the peoples of the earth. Who does this city represent? It is the Church! She is the one in who shines the light of the Messiah. All peoples are moving towards her, carrying with them the riches of their cultures. Jesus, the ‘Star’ that guides all people. Have we like the Magi followed the guiding Light that God has given us? Are we witnesses to Jesus as the ‘King of the Jews’ by the way we live our lives?
Mon. … Isaiah knew that God could never remain hidden. The ‘Light of Christ’ shines in the ‘New Jerusalem’, the Church. Let us on this feast of Epiphany commit ourselves to follow the ‘Light’ in the Way, in the Truth and in the Life.
Tues. … The Psalm this Epiphany for the ‘Unnamed King of Israel’ reads: ‘Let him judge your people with justice’. Throughout his ministry, Jesus taught by his words and actions the need for love, forgiveness and justice. As Christians do we live by these examples? Do we judge others with justice?
Wed. … Paul tells us that we have to become fellow heirs, sharing in the ‘Promise of the Messiah’. The seeds of God’s self-disclosure have been given to enrich us all. What have we done with these ‘Seeds of Salvation’, God’s gift of love to each one of us?
Thur. … The Magi, described as kings representing the three major races; Melchior, an old white man with a long white beard bearing the gift of Gold; Caspar, a younger man of darker hue carrying incense; and Balthasar, a black man offering myrrh. The Magi represented a proclamation that God was calling all people and nations to Christ. Do we share God’s gift of love equally to all people, or do old prejudices that separate us from God and each other still remain?
Frid. … The Magi gave three gifts. Gold for a King; incense to God; and myrrh for ‘One’ who was destined to die. On this Feast of Epiphany what gifts will we give to Jesus, the ‘Star’ that guides all people? Have we like the Magi followed the guiding Light that God has given us? Are we witnesses to Jesus as the ‘King of the Jews’ by the way we live our lives?
Sat. … Later on, Christ would experience rejection by his own people, even by some of his intimate disciples. In what way do we sometimes reject him? Is it by the lack of love for others? When we reject some of the ‘Precepts of the Church’? Jesus said to his disciples: “He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you, rejects me, and whoever rejects me, rejects the ‘One’ who sent me”. (Luke 10:16).
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Almighty God and Father, You revealed Your Son to all the nations by the guidance of a star. We pray that through Your Spirit, You guide us beyond the limits, which this world imposes, to Your glory in heaven by the light of faith. We pray that the limits of our faith and love will expand from the gifts of Your graces to all those who follow the ‘Star”.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.