ISAIAH 60:1-6, EPH3:2-3A,5-6, MTT2:1-12
REV. FR. PHILIPMARIO EKWELI
The universal Church celebrates the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word Epiphany comes from the Greek term known as ‘Epiphania’, meaning manifestation. It is usually called the feast of the manifestation or the appearing of Jesus Christ. It is a sign of Divine power. In its fullest meaning, this solemnity commemorates the coming of the Word into the world and his revelation to the nations.
The feast of the Epiphany was first celebrated in Africa, in Egypt, where it replaced a pagan feast that celebrated the victory of light over darkness. Beloved, Christ is the true Light that overcomes darkness (John1:9, John 8:12).
In our first reading, Prophet Isaiah says, “arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). Prophet Isaiah was speaking of the arrival of Christ who is the true light that will bring joy and happiness upon the face of the earth. Beloved, Isaiah’s prophecy gives us enough hope, that no matter the thickness of the darkness, the Lord’s light shall lightens and enlightens our ways. His glory will be manifested in our lives. Jesus’ light upon us shall be made visible to the extent that nations, kings and princes shall walk by our light. Christians are called to participate actively in the light of Christ. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world” (mtt5: 14). He called us light and so we are. That is the Epiphany of the Lord upon his people.
The prophecy of Isaiah continues to assure us that this manifestation shall gather all around us because of the radiant splendid of the light. It shall bring joy and wealth of the nations to us. Isaiah the prophet had a good understanding and revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He understood also the mystery of the Epiphany. Hence he spoke about the gifts that the wise men were to bring to Jesus as a homage in our Gospel text of today(mtt2:12). “They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6). The Psalmist corroborates this revelation and proclaimed, “All nations on earth shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord” (psalm72:11).
In our second reading, St. Paul also proclaimed the Epiphany of the Lord just as the three readings did. He did says that through God’s grace, he has been given the mystery of the revelation of Jesus Christ, most probably when he had an encounter with the master on his way to Damascus (Acts9:3-6). This same Epiphany was made known to the holy apostles and prophets as well by the Spirit. In his speech, the gentiles were not left out. “It has now been revealed that the Gentiles are fellow heirs of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph3:6). This great mystery is the feast of the Epiphany the Church celebrates today.
In the Gospel text, this great mystery was physically manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, and this was revealed to the wise men. This took place around 4BC during the epoch of Herod the King. The wise men which came from the East to Jerusalem asked a question, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him”Mtt2:2).
A star revealed the person of the new born king to the wise men. Every man has a star, and that star reveals one’s destiny. It is the manifestation of God’s gift upon everyone. The star of one’s destiny draws men and women toward him or her. It is the blueprint of God in one’s life. It is not the ordinary star that astrologers and magicians read but a divine star that shows one’s map of life.
The mere hearing of this great mystery triggered fear in the heart of King Herod and the entire Jerusalem. Herod out of curiosity, and with the evil intention gathered the chief priests and scribes in order to inquire where the Christ was to be born. Why on earth, should the birth of a little child disturbed a whole king and the entire Jerusalem, If the king has no evil intention?
Most probably, he was afraid because he thought that the child will unseat him. He thought that the new born child will dethroned him outrightly from his throne. That is the fear of the unknown. Was Christ actually coming to unseat him in the physical sense? No. His kingship was to rule in the hearts of men and women. He was to bring the light of salvation to all and sundry, and not to play politics because he is not a partisan.
Beloved, when eventually the scribes searched the scripture and it was found written that: “In Bethlehem of Judah; for so it is written by the prophets: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.” (Mtt2:5-6). Is Jesus’ kingship of this world? No(John18:32-38).
Herod, in his evil nature summoned the wise men secretly and charged them to report to him as soon as they found the new born king so that himself will equally worship him. What a blatant lie? That was pseudo worship. His aim is to kill the child but trust God on what He can do. God has made every arrangements on how to perfectly secured the new born king.
Eventually, when the wise men were led by the mysterious star to where the new king was born, they offered him gifts with eternal meaning though unknown to them. They were exceedingly filled with great joy when they saw the child and his parents. They immediately knelt down and worship him while at the same time presented gifts such as Gold, Frankincense and Myrrl.
The three outstanding gifts are symbolic, unique and purposeful. GOLD: it symbolizes Christ’s kingship. He is a king, for this purpose he was born. His sovereignty has no end(John18:36-37).
FRANKINCENSE: It symbolizes his priesthood. He is the eternal priesthood. He is to offer sacrifice for his people. To sanctify and bless them. He did this ultimately on the cross of Calvary where he offered his life as libation for all. He offers prayers on our behalf before God.
MYRRH: It symbolizes his death and burial. The ointment to embalmed him at his death. The oil that Mary Magdalene brought to anoint his feet.
Interestingly, after the solemn adoration for the child, the master planner redirected them to a different route and boycotted Herod the evil king. Beloved, when Herod didn’t see them, he master – minded his troops to kill all male children below the ages of two. These numerous children died because of Jesus. Even at their infancies, they already proclaimed Jesus as the great king and shed their blood for him. Today the Church celebrates them as the holy innocents on every 28th of December.
In conclusion, the feast of the Epiphany is ever germane to us as Christians. As Christians, we share in that revelation and proclaim the light to the whole world. Everyone who acknowledges Jesus as his or her personal Saviour shall enjoy the great joy that the revelation brings. And with Christ, our God-given dream will manifest to its fullest.
May God manifest himself in our lives daily especially in this 2020 and beyond through Christ our Lord amen.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke
God Reveals Himself Gratuitously
On this solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, we commemorate God’s revelation of Himself to all of humanity. God reveling Himself to man is a gratuitous act because it is purely for the salvation of Man. Unless man knows God, he cannot be saved. While, it is one thing for Christ to be born as man, it is another thing for man to recognize and worship Him as God. Hence, salvation is not entirely what only God does but also demands some human accent/responsibility. And so, God purposefully made man in His image and likeness so that man, from the onset, is able to receive God’s revelation of Himself. This explains why soon after creation, man is found able to communicate with God even without obvious tutoring.
Just as God’s thoughts and ways are above those of man, so the revelation of Himself always beats human expectation. The gospel tells us that the star leading to Jesus, appeared to the wise men from the East. That these men were gentiles shows that God can reveal Himself through any means or persons He chooses. He is not hindered by any human limitation. The Christian life is one of continuous and consistent assimilation of God’s revelation. But we must be very careful that we do not try to subject God to a pattern of reveling Himself. If man was to determine how God is to reveal Himself, then the revelation is no longer a free gift but a merited pay/wage.
St. Paul noted in the second reading that Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. This means, for us, an open and receptive disposition towards those who are not “like us”. If we see and treat everyone as candidates for conversion, no matter how wrong they may be living, we will not close our hearts to them. This calls us to guard against discrimination of any kind in our Christian living. God is for all of us and reveals Himself to all in different ways.
Beloved, notice that the wise men had to follow the direction of the star until they got to Jesus, meaning that the Christian life is a journey. The journey was not automatic or without difficulties. Along the line they got lost when they entered the palace (supposing that a king should be born there); the star even disappeared. Yet these difficulties were not signs that God was no longer guiding them. There is always something to learn about Jesus in the hardship we experience. Pay attention to events around you. It becomes disturbing therefore, when people serve God only when it is convenient for them. Such people are not faithful in the face of difficulties and so never discover Jesus. In our vulnerable state, God will always guide us to overcome evil. The unsuspecting wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.
Our longing for Jesus must be for the purpose of worshipping Him. To worship Jesus is to acknowledge Him as the Lord, to admit our nothingness before Him. Today, people go to Church for many reasons other than to worship God. Your intention determines your preparation. The wise men came with gifts that signified that they acknowledge the royal dignity of Jesus – gold which points to Jesus’ kingship, incense which points to his divine sonship, and myrrh which signifies his passion. When we are not generous towards the building of God’s kingdom here on earth, it means that we do not fully recognize Him as the Lord.
There is something to learn about the star. If the star could lead the wise men to Jesus, then the cosmos speaks something about the glory of God. God told Adam to cultivate the earth. To cultivate means to tend in a manner that leads to multiplicity. We must care for mother earth and respect it. Again, the star only led the wise men to Jesus. It was not Jesus itself nor did it determine the destiny of Jesus. As soon as Jesus was discovered, there was no more need of the star. Therefore, Christians must be careful not to fall into different forms of astral divinities or consultations to determine the future of new born children. It is even worse when children are subjected to rituals all in the name of protection. In his letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, St. Paul emphasizes that the risen Christ has conquered all the powers and forces in the heavens, and that he reigns over the entire universe.
We pray at this Mass for the needed grace to continually behold the face of God who reveals Himself to us daily through different ways. May our search and worship of the Lord overcome the despair of our hearts. Amen. God bless you!