The feast of Epiphany 2020
Over the years, many Catholics have shared the stories of their spiritual experience with me. Many of them have spoken about a special day when they have unique spiritual experience and encounter with the Lord that have changed their spiritual life and journey once and for all. My question, when do people get such a spiritual encounter and experience? There was once a holy monk who lived in Egypt. One day a young man came to visit him. The young man asked: “Oh, holy man, I want to know how to find God.” The monk was muscular and strong. He said: “Do you really, want to find God?” The young man answered: “Oh, yes, I do.” So the monk took the young man down to the river. Suddenly, the monk grabbed the young man by the neck and held his head under water. At first the young man thought the monk was giving him a special baptism. But when after two minutes the monk didn’t let go, the young man began struggling. Still the monk wouldn’t release him. Second by second, the young man fought harder and harder. After five and half minutes, the monk pulled the young man out of the water and said: “When you desire God as much as you desired air, you will have the epiphany of God.”
The word Epiphany means appearance or manifestation or showing forth. “Epiphany” refers to God’s Self-revelation as well as the revelation of Jesus as His Son. On the Feast of the Epiphany we remember the multiple revelations of Jesus to different peoples. The angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds, and the star revealed him to the Magi, who had already received hints of Him from Jewish scriptures. Later, God the Father revealed the identity of Jesus at His baptism in the Jordan. In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed himself as the promised Messiah. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.
According to tradition there were three magi, Casper, Balthazar, and Melchior. This is based on the fact that three gifts are mentioned in Matthew’s gospel: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gifts of Gold, frankincense and myrrh were symbolic in nature. They tell us who Jesus actually was. The Magi offered gold, in recognition of Jesus as the king of the Jews; frankincense, in acknowledgment that he was God, and myrrh as a symbol of his human nature. Scholars have different opinion about them magi. Some say that they were Persian priests or some others say that they were Babylonian astronomers or spice traders. Eventually they were pictured as representatives of different peoples and races. Some Jewish rabbis claim that according to the book of Torah a star appeared in the sky at the births of Abraham, Isaac and Moses. Likewise, in the Book of Numbers, the prophet Balaam speaks of “a star that shall come out of Jacob.” Stars were believed to be signs from God, announcing important events.
The Magi were on a journey to Christ. The feast of Epiphany invites us to see ourselves as images of the Magi, a people on a journey to Christ. Today’s gospel tells us that people had three kinds of reactions to Jesus’ birth: hatred, indifference, and adoration. a) A group of people headed by Herod plans to destroy Jesus. b) Another group composed of priests and scribes ignores Jesus. c) The members of a third group — shepherds and the magi — adore Jesus and offer themselves to Him. Today, many oppose Christ and his Church because of their selfish motives, evil ways and unjust lives. Children still have Herods to fear. The United States aborts annually one and one-half million innocent unborn children. The Scribes, Pharisees and the Jewish priests knew that there were nearly 500 prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah. Unfortunately, they were more interested in their own selfish gains than in discovering the truth. Hence, they refused to go and see the child Jesus–even though Bethlehem was quite close to Jerusalem. Today many Christians remind us of this group. Many Catholics are cafeteria Christians. They ignore Jesus’ teachings in their private lives. But there was a small group of selected people who adored Jesus and offered Him gifts: they were the shepherds and the Magi. The shepherds offered the only gifts they had: love, tears of joy, and probably woolen clothes and milk from their sheep.
Like the Magi, let us offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of Epiphany. (a)The first gift might be friendship with God. After all, the whole point of Christmas is that God’s son became one of us, to redeem us and call us friends. God wants our friendship in the form of wholehearted love, commitment and devotion. (b) A second gift might be friendship with others expressed by encouraging them by our visits and helping them in their needs. (c) A third gift might be the gift of reconciliation. This is the gift of repairing damaged relationships in and outside our families. Giving it requires honesty, humility, understanding, forgiveness and patience. (d) The fourth gift of this season is the gift of peace: the seeking God’s peace in our own lives through prayer, sacramental life and daily meditation on the Word of God.
The text tells us that after worshiping Jesus, the wise men went home by a different way. That is what we need. We all need to be able to go home after this celebration, by a different way. Now we have found a new way to be at home. Now we received a new life and different style of functioning. Today we have received the light of Jesus. Do you bring the light of Jesus Christ to those you meet through the witness of your life and testimony? My dear friends, you are no more in darkness. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Mathew “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” What is the challenge of this Eucharistic celebration? To set our good deeds before others as an incentive for them to know and experience the goodness of God. God bless you!