Feast Of The Epiphany – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus, The Star That Guides All People”.
The Epiphany was first celebrated in Africa, in Egypt, where it replaced a pagan feast that celebrated the ‘victory of light over darkness’.
Christian liturgy took over this ‘theme’ and proposes it to our reflection in the first reading and in the Gospel.
The second reading tells us what will happen in the world once men and women have accepted the Light: they will all become one people.
The Feast of the Epiphany is the ‘feast of manifestation’. On this day we celebrate the coming of the mysterious strangers from across the desert who had been following the source of the brilliance they had seen. This manifestation of God is what Jesus would embody for the rest of his earthly life and that Christ and his Church would continue for the rest of the life of the world to come.
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.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden. In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Our first reading seems to have its origin at a time shortly after the return of the exiles had begun. One might have expected that the people’s liberation from captivity and their homecoming would be a time of unalloyed joy; but it was not so. Discouragement was in the air. In response to that, the prophet offers these words of hope to a wavering community.
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, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.”
This passage is much 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’. Jerusalem will be once again the centre of the world and she will remain as such forever.
The Kingdom of God, the Messianic Jerusalem, of course is Christ. He is the brightness of God who calls men and women from near and far to come and live with him. The prophet’s dream becomes true when the ‘Light of Christ’ begins to shine on this city. What does this city represent? The ‘Church!’ She is the one in whom shines the ‘Light of the Messiah’. All peoples are moving towards her, carrying with them the riches of the cultures. If we take a good look at our various 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.
The Psalm for this Epiphany was originally a hymn for the coronation of an unnamed king of Israel, with a none-too-subtle hint to him about how he is to behave. Only after this does the poet venture a prayer about the size of the new king’s dominions: 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 in this Psalm on 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 seed of God’s self-disclosure was first given to Israel. It was nourished in Israel’s soil. It was always meant to enrich all 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. This is how all should live, because we are all children of the same Father and we all experience the same gratuitous love.
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 man-made prejudices in the world.
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’. 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”. Only in him and through him will we remain on course to our journey’s end.
Epiphany is truly a feast of “openness”. We too want to worship before the Messiah and place our gifts at his feet as well. What gift will you be bringing to place at his feet? The gift that Jesus would cherish most would be our hearts. That is our unconditional love for the Father and for our neighbour.
To find the ‘stable’ and its immense wealth of blessings we must be humble. Like the shepherds and the Magi, we must listen to where God points us and follow that ‘Light” that shows us the ‘Way’. The Magi had a great yearning to seek out the Messiah and pay homage. Do we have that yearning? May we, on this Feast of the Epiphany, with great yearning, humility and gratuitous love, seek out the Messiah and the solution to life’s great 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.
The Magi offered him gifts of ‘gold’ for a king, ‘frankincense’ for God, and ‘myrrh ointment’ for one who is destined to die.” What gift do we bring to our Lord today?
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 our 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:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
Feast of Epiphany Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … Jesus is 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 love we give to our neighbour and the way we live our lives? If not, today is the perfect time to begin.
Mon. … Isaiah knew that God could never remain hidden. The ‘Light of Christ’ shines in the ‘New Jerusalem’, which is Christ’s Church. Let us on this ‘Feast of Epiphany’ commit ourselves to follow the ‘Light’ in the ‘Way, in the Truth and in the Life’.
Tue. … 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 those examples? Do we judge others with justice and compassion?
Wed. … Paul tells us that we have to become fellow heirs, sharing in the ‘Promise of the Messiah’. The seed of God’s self-disclosure has been given to enrich us all. What have we done with this ‘Seed of Salvation’, God’s gift of love to each one of us? Do we enrich this precious gift with gratuitous love to all that need it?
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 still remain?
Frid. … The Magi gave three gifts: Gold for a King, Incense to God and Myrrh for the ‘One’ who was destined to die. On this Feast of Epiphany what gifts will we give to Jesus? Jesus’ great gift to us is life. Will our gift to Jesus be what we do with our life by actively dedicating it to the ‘Way’?
Sat. … Later on, Christ would experience rejection by his own people, even by some of his intimate and dedicated disciples. In what way do we sometimes reject him? By ignoring the teachings of the Gospel? By our lack of love for others and God? 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.
Father, You revealed Your Son to all the nations by the guidance of a Star. Today we too wish to place our gift at the feet of our Saviour which is our unconditional love for the Blessed Trinity and for our neighbour.
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.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.