FIRST READING Isaiah 60:1-6
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.
SECOND READING Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
GOSPEL Matthew 2:1-12
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Jesus is revealed as God. That is what Epiphany means. Jesus comes as a baby born of Mary. It took a revelation for others to begin to believe that this was truly God. That coming to believe is Epiphany. Some of us have types of spiritual experiences in which we come to recognize what God is asking of us. Some of us never have those types of experiences. Yet all of us are called to seek to live as fully and completely as we can in this life.
Perhaps we have seen glimpses of God in our lives. This is also epiphany: when we see something so beautiful that we believe only a God could have created it. Or perhaps we have heard a piece of music that touched something with us: perhaps another epiphany. Or maybe we have heard someone speak of God in a way that brought us to belief. This is also epiphany.
The magi from the East came looking for the Christ Child because of something that they saw in the skies. It sounds unusual for us today, but such things happen all through history. Their arrival in Judea makes Herod uneasy about his position as ruler of Judea. Yet when these magi finally meet the baby Jesus, they bow in worship and head home in another way, having been told in a dream to do that.
Epiphany is mysterious. Why we recognize something out of the ordinary in something that seems quite ordinary is always a mystery. Part of our humanity inclines us toward seeking beyond what we know. Sometimes we call it science, but even that urge to expand our knowledge implies something within us which believes that always more is possible. Epiphany.
The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, also speaks of a vague knowledge of the future when the fortunes of Jerusalem will change. This inner and deep longing and even belief that change is possible is part of epiphany. Do we really believe that peace is possible in our own time, throughout our whole world? That is the longing that draws people towards Epiphany.
The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians and states that this experience of God is for all peoples, Jews and Gentiles alike. That is simply a way of stating that God’s salvation is for all. Everyone is invited to share the salvation given to us by God.
The challenge is epiphany: that experience that reveals to us that God exists and God seeks us actively to draw us into divinity. In today’s celebration we rejoice that Christ is born, King of the Jews and King of all who seek salvation. Let us rejoice in His birth and know that He seeks us. May the Holy Child embrace us this day.
Your brother in the Lord,