EPIPHANY of the LORD 2012
Ephesians 3.2-3, 5-6
During my years in Nigeria, an SMA colleague, who was an expert on African culture and art, visited me. He was also an expert on nature, especially being very knowledgeable about birds and animals. One day he asked me to go bird watching with him. At that time I had no interest in this but being free went along. We spent most of the day watching the various birds, especially looking at the incredible variety of sizes, shapes and colours. He was unbelieveably knowledgeable about them. The longer the day went on the more I became amazed and totally involved in what we were doing. In truth this other SMA priest revealed a world I knew nothing of up to then. He gave a whole new meaning to nature and opened up for me a whole new way of looking at it.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, a word meaning revelation or manifestation. Just like my priest friend revealed or manifested to me a whole new way of looking at nature, today’s gospel is about the manifestation of Jesus to the Magi. These were the representatives of the so-called pagan world of the time. Jesus is revealed to them as the Light of the world, as its Saviour. In him, like for me, a whole new world, a whole new way of looking at life and living is revealed or manifested to them.
Epiphany is a call to avoid the temptation of thinking that Christ came for one group of people, or one Church. He came for all of us. Epiphany breaks down barriers and confirms that Jesus came for everyone. All nations will come to the light; all are called to become disciples of Jesus Christ. That is why the Epiphany is the great missionary feast. In that sense each of us who knows Jesus Christ is missioned to make him known to others by our way of living and acting. So each one of us is called to be a living witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. This must involve kindness to others, forgiving them if necessary, sharing whatever is possible – not necessarily money but our time, ourselves.
But this is a choice offered us by God. Whom do we resemble more? The eager wise men who let neither distance nor difficulty stand in their way when it came to finding Jesus. Or, are we like Herod and many of the religious leaders in Jerusalem? Are we fearful that the coming of Jesus may disturb the tranquillity of our lives? Maybe we are content with our religious practices as were the Jewish religious leaders but what is God asking of us these days? What is the star that is guiding our lives? Money, pleasure, drugs etc. Is it leading us to peace, joy; that is, to Jesus. Or is it leading us away from him.
It is interesting to note that after the Magi or Wise men found Jesus they returned home by a different route. We can assume that their having found Jesus transformed their lives, because in the bible a change of path symbolises conversion. Surely this must be the outcome of our encountering the Lord, the capacity to take another road. Maybe to take on a new way of living, a way that will give more meaning, more peace and joy to ourselves and others who may be influenced by us.
The Wise Men encountered Herod and the Jewish leaders as they searched for Jesus. Who are the Herods that we encounter in our lives? Who are those who may seek to use us for their own ends but are not interested in what is best for us? We need to be aware of those who exploit others for their own ends – we can call to mind the way children are being misused and abused. We see on TV child soldiers, or those forced to work under terrible dehumanising conditions. We also are more aware these days of the sexual exploitation of children and women. May the Good Lord open our eyes to people interested only in using us for their own selfish ends.
We need to remember also that the Epiphany is not a ‘mere’ celebration of a past “event”, of a revelation of Jesus to the Magi at Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago. Rather does it remind us that his Epiphany, his revelation is an ongoing process. Christ is ever being revealed more and more to women and men as the fulfillment of their hopes and promises.
In the stories of the birth of Jesus, it is interesting to observe how different people came to know about Jesus. For the shepherds it was a heavenly vision of angels, for the Magi it was a star, for Herod through a searching of the Scriptures. Of these different ways it would be wrong to say one way was as good as another. We see that the guiding light of the star needed the supernatural light of scriptural revelation to complement it.
“Lord Jesus, we believe that you are the Way, the only star that can guide us safely in life to that peace and joy that each of us seeks. May our daily lives be a manifestation, an Epiphany to others that you alone are worth seeking for and following. May we too like the Wise Men be searchers for what is truly life-giving, You alone. May our lives witness to this to others by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Fr Jim Kirstein, SMA