Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Basic lessons from the three wise men
Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. This Celebration marks the end of the Christmas season. Epiphany means manifestation or showing. Basically, our Christian vocation is to mirror Jesus and his glory to the world. The Gospel presents us with the visit of the three wise men to the new born King. What can we learn from them?
The wise men endured: Anyone who wants to manifest his God-given talent must learn to endure. These men saw the star. The star is judged by some teachers as a certain constellation (that is, particular star that you see daily) While others see it as a miraculous phenomenon. What is certain is that they followed a sign. Following a sign must have been a tedious task. These men persevered, went through valleys and hills, they travelled night and day all to pay him homage. We too should not be discouraged by the distance we cover just to come to Church, we should not be discouraged by the trials we go through in order to worship Jesus truly. Again, when they saw Jesus they stopped following the star. We must now focus on Jesus not the star. Today many Christians still follow the reading of the star, scorpion, Zodiac, palms and many others. Beloved, follow Jesus and be saved. What you follow determines what follows you; if you follow Jesus, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow you…”
To see the star one has to look up. Beloved, look up and be lifted up. Do we really take time to look up. Often times we are weighed down by our worries and anxieties. To look up is to be hopeful; a man travelling that is not looking upwards will miss his direction. As Christians we are on a journey to heaven. We must look up, remove your eyes from lust, material things and distractions. Again, to look up is to be focused. Beloved, this year make a decision to be focused, if the wise men had given in to distractions they wouldn’t have located Jesus. Work on your distractions this year, it could be financial; emotional; physical etc.
These wise men departed by another way. The Gospel says in Matt.2:12 “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” These men departed by another road as instructed by the angel not because of insecurity but because they must not go back to Herod. We too must not go back to Herod. Anyone who has found Christ must not go back to Herod. Herod depicts wickedness, immorality and darkness. Anyone who encounters Christ in the sacraments, prayer and charity must not go back to Herod. If we have truly repented we must not go back to our former ways of life. We must not go back to lust and immoralities 2Cor.5:17 says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” In this New Year be a new person.
These wise men came to worship Christ. We have come to worship. The wise men worshipped, it will be unwise for us not to worship. The wise did not worship with empty hands, it will be unwise for us to come and worship with empty hands. Men of old knew this; they worshipped with the best of their produce. Genesis 4:4 – “And Abel brought the best, the choicest parts of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering.” In Genesis 8:20 – “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” In Exodus 23:19 – For the three annual festivals, Moses tells the people, “The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.” Beloved we too must learn the act of sincere worship.
In worship these wise men prostrated and adored. The response to the psalm developed this theme further when it says “All nations of the earth shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.” All nations here refers to all peoples; Apostle Paul emphasized this in the second reading that the message of God through Christ is meant for every one – not just the Jewish people but all peoples. Let us all learn to worship. Today even those who are physically fit find it difficult to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament –it is a pity and they are not wise. Wise men could prostrate; it will be unwise for us to disregard liturgical gestures.
These wise men brought costly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold depicts Christ’s kingship, frankincense his divinity and myrrh, his humanity. The gifts represent the various stages in Christ’s life. But for us, gold means love, frankincense means prayer and myrrh means mortification. Therefore, the life of a true Christian should give expression to love, prayer and penance. Without these factors the Christian life will suffer eternal separation from God.
Lastly, the first reading tells us arise and shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Are you still sitting in darkness? Arise! Are you still living in sin or partnering with the world? Arise! Beloved, Arise, wake up from that addiction, wake up from that dangerous sleep; wake up from that darkness – your light has come. Paul says in Rom.13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Isaiah says though thick darkness may cover the world but upon you the light of God will shine. 1Thess.5:5 calls us children of light. We are children of light not of night or of the dark. Let us desist from every dark act and manifest as light. Let your light. To shine is to manifest – epiphany; to manifest Christ. To manifest the fruits of the Spirit: joy, patience, kindness, peace and the likes. God bless you!
LET US PRAY
O God, who on this day revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy that we, who know you already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.
Fr. Paul Oredipe
The Lord’s Manifestations – Faith is for sharing
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Epiphany. The word “Epiphany” comes from the Greek work “Epiphaino”, which means “appearing,” a “manifestation,” a “shining forth” of something that was previously a secret or hidden.
Like the celebration of Christmas, this celebration has remained a vital element of our Christian tradition. It is also known as the “feast of the Three Kings,” or the “feast of the Wise Men from the East”. It is indeed a great and revolutionary celebration.
We do not know exactly who these three (or even more, depending on the source of our information) men are. St. Matthew tells us that they are “astrologers from the east”. The traditional names of those three kings or astrologers in Medieval legend are Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior. When they arrived in Jerusalem to ask Herod of the new-born king’s whereabouts, they told Herod that they “have observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage”. It is clear that they are not Jews in any case. Here we have the first piece of hard evidence about their trip.
The Lord manifested himself to non-Jews through some mysterious cosmic sign. Once again we could get lost in endless conjectures about the meaning and import of this star.
Whatever the star was, it was only the means by which a great mystery was revealed – the revelation of Christ as the Saviour, not just of the Jews, but of the Gentiles, that is, of the whole human race. It is enough for us to know that these “pagans” have been informed of the Lord’s birth. It is an illustration of what Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians (our Second Reading today). He tells us that the pagan gentiles have been let in on the same heritage, the mystery of Christ, “unknown to men in former ages.”
Here we can draw an important lesson. God did choose a people to be His own and He entrusted His promises to them. This people is a necessity for salvation; it was once called Israel and now it is known as the Church. But this does not mean that God neglects those who are not part of this people. He enlightens them too, helping them to discover his revelation and to be faithful to it. Thus God’s activity is evident outside the institution of the Church also, and today we are invited to rejoice over that fact. This is the first and foremost aspect of Epiphany – the manifestation of the universal dominion of the new-born King, Christ Jesus. This celebration shows that election by God was not just a privilege for some but a hope for all. It puts an end to every form of exclusivism.
Today’s Solemnity makes it clear that Christ did not come for the Jews alone, but for every creature under the sun. Jesus is manifested or revealed to all who are outside the circle of the Yahwistic Religion. Thus Epiphany, a derivation from the Greek meaning a manifestation or revelation, is a commemoration of the universal dimension of the Salvation wrought by Jesus as He becomes the Light which draws all things to Himself. As a Light Jesus brightens everywhere and he is perceived even in the darkest areas of life. The visit by the Magi is a way of saying that even the Gentiles, who are thought to be in darkness on account of their ignorance of Yahweh, are inclusive in the good news of salvation.
What the Jews did not understand is that they were not to be the sole beneficiaries of the promise. In today’s second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians we hear that the gentiles are co-heirs with the Jews, sharers of the great promise. The kings who come to see the infant are pagans. But they are drawn by the light of the Lord, the Star of Bethlehem, to worship the One God.
JESUS IS SAVIOR OF ALL, AND SALVATION IS FOR ALL, AND FULNESS OF LIFE FOR ALL COMES THROUGH HIM. NO ONE IS EXCLUDED; EVEN THOSE WHO WOULD EXCLUDE THEMSELVES. HOW HARD A TRUTH! NO ONE IS BEYOND REDEMPTION, EVEN THOSE WHO ARE MOST INTRACTABLE, MOST UNWILLING TO BELIEVE. THE CHURCH IS CALLED TO BRING THE GOOD NEWS TO EVERY LIVING BEING, FOR WE ARE ALL CO HEIRS, MEMBERS OF THE SAME BODY, CO PARTNERS IN CREATION, AND WITH JESUS CHRIST REDEMPTION IN AND THROUGH THE CHURCH.
The message of the Epiphany is that God’s plan, Christ’s coming, is a public event. Religion is never a private matter. We are called to make Christ present to the world. We have been formed into a people shaped by the revelation of the Lord to become an epiphany of his presence in the world. We are the wise men from the East. We are those to whom God has revealed Himself. We are the inheritors of the great promise made to the people of Israel. Now we are called to reveal this promise to the world: the promise is this: God is with His people.
Today we learn that every manifestation of the Lord summons us to move further ahead, to go beyond where we are at the moment. When the Lord manifests Himself, He overturns the established order, the harmonious balance already in existence, the advantages and roles already prevalent. He provokes an evolution which calls for surrender and sharing: surrender, because we apparently lose some of our power; sharing, because we must be willing to grow by accepting someone else and offer them something of our own self. The institution, like individuals, has a very hard time doing this. It is not easy to realize that it will make progress only if it is willing to expunge (efface) itself.
The celebration of Epiphany, then is the celebration of the Lord’s manifestations. This celebration is not restricted to the journey of the wise men. It is the daily adventure of the Church, and this is reason for rejoicing. We must try to profit from it by being willing to open up to others, to practise self-detachment, and to cultivate the habit of sharing. Those Wise Men of yesteryear represent all of us on a spiritual adventure which goes on as long as life lasts. Their journey through desert and mountain following a star reflects our search for purpose and meaning in life, which is not possible unless we are guided by faith which enables us to see beneath the surface of appearances.
Like the Wise Men, we are called to search and to discover the presence of Christ in our lives. It is an on-going relationship which cannot be programmed, labeled or packaged. We are to be Wise Men for our day, making Jesus visible to the whole world as its Saviour and Redeemer. Our special role is to make Jesus known along the pathways of life by being open and receptive to His word. This will enable us to read clearly the signs of the times. We must not allow the modern day Herods to cast their evil shadows over Gospel truth, but rather keep the light shining through the way we live our lives. The Lord needs our commitment in furthering His work.
The Wise Men did not come to the Lord empty-handed, but with gifts specially chosen which expressed the reason for their search, and neither must we come empty-handed. They gave their gifts to the child as symbols of the offering of their lives.
We may not have gold, frankincense or myrrh, but we can bring the gift of ourselves as human beings grafted into Christ. The gift of self is something more precious, as it never wears out. When we meet other people, we may not have gold, frankincense or myrrh to bring them, but we can offer the priceless treasure of the presence of Christ in us. It is hardly right to come before people empty-handed, with no gifts of encouragement and compassion to offer them, on their pilgrim way. We are Christians, not just for our own sakes, but for others.
This celebration also teaches us that faith is for sharing. We too can and indeed need to manifest Christ to those around us. We too can become an ‘Epiphany’ (a manifestation, a revealing) of God by full Christian lives. All of us are called to Bethlehem today. All of us are inheritors of the Great Promise. We are enlightened by the glory of the Lord. We are the nations called to walk in God’s glory. Today, God is calling us each to a sit down to discuss how He can manifest His presence in our lives and the lives of our families.
The star led them to Jesus. People can be stars in our life also. They can be the light that leads us to God. Look around to one another and see how each of us can be a star by our goodness, by our love, by our generosity, by our reaching out to others — and be lead by those who are stars. All you have to do is try to live according to the way of Jesus, the way of love, and come to understand that everybody is my brother and sister, that the Christ who came into the world came to share the life of God with all, and have that in the forefront of your mind as you reach out in love. That is how all of us can be a star to one another.
The wise men did not have all the answers. Neither do we. They had a wicked king after them. In many ways so do we. But on their life travels what they did have was fellowship and the light of Christ to guide them. And so do we. But, you know, the best part of the wondrous magi story comes at the end: they left us a promise. For at last they found what they were looking for. And so shall we!
“Wise men still seek him,” the old Christmas card declares. Are we wise? Do we seek him? Or do we have all the answers in our technological pockets? We Christians must be convinced that unless our thoughts are Christocentric, revolve around the Lord Jesus, not only do we not have the answers, we do not even know the questions that need to be asked about life.
God has a Word for you – He has something to say to you. God has a vision for you, a revelation to give you. Are you willing to be a seeker and to journey along in openness and willingness like those wise men from the east?
May the Lord strengthen our will as we continue to make ourselves worthy for his kingdom through Christ our Lord. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.