EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of aircraft’s electronic navigation and communication equipment. Due to the clouds and haze the pilot could not determine his position or course to steer to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign and held it in the helicopter’s window. The sign said “WHERE AM I”? in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. The sign said, “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER”. The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map and determined the course to steer to SEATAC (Seattle/Tacoma) airport and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded, ” I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer”.

A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” This sense of suspense and surprise prompted many to watch the seven episodes of the Star War movies. The same desire for epiphany with the thrill and suspense encouraged the great explorers like Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus to make risky and adventurous journeys. It is the same curiosity which led the magi to follow the star of Bethlehem.  An element of suspense marked every moment in the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit of God was going to take them down next. I’m sure they did not seek help from Microsoft buildings. Today’s readings invite us to have the same curiosity as explorers and movie fans do, so that we may discover the “epiphany” or manifestation or Self- revelation of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere.

“Epiphany” refers to God’s Self-revelation as well as to the revelation of Jesus as His Son to all mankind.   Epiphany is an older celebration than the feast of Christmas, having originated in the East in the late second century.  In Italy and Spain, the gifts traditionally associated with the Christmas season are exchanged today, on the feast of the Epiphany which we might try next year giving gifts to children on the feast day of Epiphany instead of Christmas day.

The story of the Magi proclaims that the good news of Christ is for all people—for the entire world.  We do not know too much about the Magi themselves, but one thing is clear from the gospel: they were not Jewish.  They came from another country, from the east. They were foreigners. This dimension of the story makes it clear that the good news of Christ’s salvation is not to be limited to any one nation, people, culture or race.  Christ comes to every person.

The Magi in the story not only saw the star and realized its significance, they followed it. They chose to act.  They left their comfortable homes, undertook an arduous journey, and came to pay homage to the Christ Child.  In the same way, we are called to act. The story of the Magi says we must not simply know and understand. We must act. The Epiphany can be looked on as a symbol for our pilgrimage through life to Christ.   The feast invites us to see ourselves as images of the Magi, a people on a journey to Christ. Are we going to just admire the star or follow the star?

Today’s Gospel also tells us the story of the Magi’s encounter with the evil King Herod.   This encounter symbolizes three reactions to Jesus’ birth:  hatred, indifference, and adoration: a) a group of people headed by Herod planned to destroy Jesus;  b) another group, composed of priests and scribes, ignored Jesus; Today, many Christians remind us of these two groups.   They practice their religion from selfish motives, such as to gain political power, prestige and recognition by society.  They ignore Jesus’ teachings in their private lives.  c) the members of a third group — shepherds and the magi — adored Jesus and offered themselves to Him. To which of these group can we identify ourselves?

Let us make sure that we belong to the third group.  a) Let us worship Jesus at Mass, every day if we can, with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration.  Let us offer God our very selves, promising Him that we will use His blessings to do good for our fellow men.   b) Let us plot a better course for our lives as the Magi did, choosing for ourselves a better way of life in the New Year by abstaining from proud and impure thoughts, evil habits and selfish behavior and sharing our love with others in acts of charity.   c)  Let us become stars, leading others to Jesus, as the star led the Magi to Him.   We can remove or lessen the darkness of the evil around us by being, if not like stars, at least like candles, radiating Jesus’ love by selfless service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate care.

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