Homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, January 8, 2012
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The historical event we are commemorating is the arrival of the Magi bearing gifts to the Baby Jesus, but the celebration also has greater symbolic value. On Christmas, Jesus is only seen by His family and the shepherds, all of whom are members of the Chosen People of Israel. Today, the three Magi represent the rest of us, all the Gentile nations. “Epiphany” is the English version of a Greek word that means “revelation”; we are commemorating the revelation of the Baby Jesus to the whole world, the beginning of the extension of God’s promise of salvation to all people of the earth.
Besides the direct account of these events in the Gospel, this theme is reflected in the first reading, a prophetic text which speaks of a guiding light gathering people from far nations, who come bearing gifts of gold and frankincense. The Psalm sings of kings and nations serving the Lord and doing Him homage and bringing Him tribute. St. Paul in the second reading emphasizes the wonderful revelation that the Gentiles are co-heirs with the Israelites of God’s promise of redemption.
There is also more to learn from this if we look at the details. The Magi knew of Christ’s birth through signs that they had to interpret. It wasn’t entirely clear to them exactly Whom they were going to see, nor where He had been born. They had to make a long journey with no more to guide them than a star, and even that star disappeared at times. They had to stop to ask for help on the way. They were guided by faith, and had to make great sacrifices to arrive at their destination. Yet, they realized that it was worth it, and they brought costly gifts to offer the new-born King.
We can identify with the Magi. We don’t see the Lord with our own eyes, as He really is. We know of Him through the Scriptures, through His mysterious action in our lives, through the wonderful beauty of His creation, and through the visible signs of the Sacraments. These help us to have faith, and guide us on the journey of life, our pilgrimage towards heaven where we will see Him face to face. Sometimes we can have a profound experience of God’s presence, but there is always a veil in this life between us and God, and at times, there are events in life that obscure even these signs. There are days when we can’t see the star, when like the Magi we have to stop and ask for help and guidance. Sometimes we rely entirely on faith or sheer perseverance to keep going.
But also like the Magi, we know that it’s worth the effort. When we see Jesus face to face, we shall be transformed, and see Him as He really is. When we give Him our loving obedience, our adoration, and our hardships suffered with faith and hope, we are giving back to Him just a fragment of all that He has given us. Jesus warned us that we would have to walk a difficult path to follow Him, but promised that the reward would be all the greater for those who make sacrifices for His sake.
The Christmas season is often a time when we get a special glimpse of God’s love, and how His presence among us is destined to transform the world by transforming our hearts. As we prepare to return to Ordinary Time, let’s keep that star of God’s love burning in our hearts, so that we are guided by it throughout the whole year. May our Lord Jesus Christ help us to stay on the path towards Him at all times, and grant us the faith and perseverance to keep on loving and serving Him even when our enthusiasm falters, and troubles obscure our vision. May we all one day arrive to kneel before the Lord in heaven, with our spiritual gifts in hand, to worship our Lord and Savior for an eternity of joy and peace.