“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.
The Epiphany was first celebrated in Africa, in Egypt, where it replaced a pagan feast that celebrated the victory of light over darkness.
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. But what is the right course? How can we stay on course?
These are important questions. Christians have a true, unfailing ‘Star’ to help us in our journey, as the readings for this Feast of the Epiphany make clear.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Our first reading seems to have its origin at a time shortly after the return of the exiles had begun. Although one might have expected that the people’s liberation from captivity and their homecoming would be a time of unalloyed joy, it was in fact not so.
The number of those returning from Babylon was a trickle rather than a flood. Life in the homeland was fraught with partisan strife and economic uncertainty. 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 praise for the Lord.”
This passage 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’. Darkness will give way before the beauty and brilliance of God’s Kingdom. All nations will be illuminated by its brightness. People from all over the world will seek to become part of it. Every sort of riches from every quarter of the earth will be brought to the kingdom, not to bring it economic enrichment, but as a sign of the dedication of those who come from afar.
Jerusalem is 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. Who does this city represent? 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.
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. ‘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 share 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.
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 more than likely that the Epiphany story played a role in putting an end to many prejudices.
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, In this context, the parsley is way more rational (even though it does not have any special Detox Drinks powers). 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.
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 and 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 welcome, love and compassion. This gives us the strength to overcome any tendency to retreat into a shell.
Our ‘Faith’, a ‘Star’ to lead us, seemingly such a little light, very distant and too easily obscured by clouds; visible only in the darkness of night. Yet this ‘Star’ was a sign of the beyond in our midst. Many people received a glimpse of life’s great story only after entering the darkness of suffering. Faith is a commitment to the distant, dimly perceived beyond that which came into our world at Christmas.
As the ‘wise men’ entered the house of worship (the shelter) they gave up to Jesus their accoutrements of their former religion. Ironically, as people today leave the Church they often are going back to the worship of gold, to the incense of oriental vagueness and to explosive lotions in pursuit of the body beautiful. They are returning to the stars as their source of enlightenment but neglecting the word of God, which pointed the ‘Way’ to where Jesus could be found.
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.
Epiphany means the revealing or showing of Jesus Christ to the nations of the world. The Christmas story is advanced in the significance of the gifts, which we bring, which reveals the identity and mission of our Lord and Saviour.
‘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 Sunday of ‘The Epiphany’ Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. …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? Do we follow the guiding ‘Light’ of the word of God and the teachings of the Church?
Mon. …Isaiah heralds the dawning of a new day for Israel and the world. He knew that God could never remain hidden. Today, 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 for this Epiphany is for the ‘Unnamed King of Israel’ and it 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?
Wed. …Paul tells us that we have 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?
Thurs. …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 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? Will our gifts bear fruit and reveal to others the true identity of our Lord and Saviour?
Sat. …Later on, Christ would experience rejection by his own people, even by some of his intimate disciples. Let us meditate on the many ways that we sometimes reject him. Is it by the lack of love for others or when we conveniently 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. 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.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.