The Feast of the Epiphany
Happy New Year! I am a few days late with this seasonal greeting, but as they say, better late than never. I hope that by now you have not already broken your New Year’s resolution! 😊 Perhaps this year we may all share a similar resolution for 2021. That would be to persevere with social distancing and all other recommended public health measures until such time that we are able to receive the vaccine. I know that is certainly one of my resolutions and I eagerly look forward to the day that all of us can gather as a Catholic community to receive the Holy Eucharist, to sing joyfully songs of praise and, once again, join in close fellowship over a cup of coffee.
In today’s Gospel we hear of the three wise men, or Magi, that also had a truly clear resolution. They were determined to find “the one who has been born King of the Jews” (Matt 2:2) and to worship him. They had followed His star for many miles from the east and finally arrived in Jerusalem at the court of King Herod. It was here that the chief priests and the scribes told them the exact village that they would find the Christ, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet.” (Matt 2:5) They then continued their journey following the star until they arrived at the very location where Mary and Jesus were. They prostrated themselves and worshipped him and paid Jesus homage with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Their perseverance having been rewarded and their hearts changed, they departed for their country by another route.
As we begin 2021 the story of the Epiphany gives us the occasion to consider a distinction between spirituality on the one hand and faith or religion on the other. The Magi were probably astrologers whose purpose was to study the stars and see the will of God contained therein. They were spiritual seekers who sought out God. They symbolize the best of the spiritual seekers, from ancient times, to the present day. Whether they be Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, Muslim, Jewish, or Christian; they are all seekers of God. The Magi represent all that is good and true and beautiful in spiritual seeking. They come searching for the Messiah. But they do not know exactly where to go until they come to the Holy Land and meet with the representatives of the Jewish religion who tell them, based on revelation, where to go and exactly who they are seeking. It is incredibly telling that these gifted seekers must come to the tradition of Israel to find the right focus for their spiritual quest.
It is the “chosen people of Israel” who are the ones who have been given the gift of divine revelation. They are called to share this gift with “all of the nations” and thus, all spiritual seekers. We should not reduce the voice of Israel to one voice among many. It is distinct, because as Bishop Robert Barron says, “God spoke His own mind and heart to them. God gave Israel, the law, the covenant, the patriarchs, the temple, the prophets and the long tradition of worship so that His will would be made known.” It is by these means that he shaped the “chosen people” according to his heart and all of this came to its culmination when He sent his only son to them for the salvation of the world.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word epiphany as a “sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.” The “chosen people of Israel” pointed the way to the ultimate answer to the question of our essential nature and meaning. On this the Feast of the Epiphany we celebrate the revelation to the Maji of God incarnate as Jesus Christ. May all spiritual seekers be blessed with this same epiphany.
Like the Magi, we may not know exactly what we are looking for this year, but if we set our sights high enough and persevere in our Catholic faith, God will not hesitate to lead us into new epiphanies where we will meet God among us in unexpected and wildly rich ways.
God bless you folks and my prayer for you is that 2021 be a year filled with many blessings! Father Gerard