Jan 1, 2011

Epiphany of the Lord: "Your light has come!"


Isaiah 60: 1-6
Eph 3: 2-3,5-6
Matthew 2: 1-12

Hunting around about two weeks ago to find an appropriate calendar for this new year, I settled on one which offer monthly pictures of light houses which stand along the shores of Oceans and large lakes. These beacons of light shine in darkness and dense fog to guide ships away from dangerous conditions that might cause more than a mere bump into rocks and shallow waters below. However, with modern navigation systems their purpose today may be more something of past history but they are picturesque. So, for the next twelve months, I’ll be treated to a pleasant visual of these towers on the west coast, Maine, France, Canada, and Australia in addition to our parish calendar which is more practical for my ministry.

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord; a celebration of "light, glory, splendor, radiance" – all of which we hear beautifully described in our first reading from Isaiah. Like the towers which stand as a guiding light, this child born in Bethlehem comes on the stage of human history as a new star. We are invited to look in his direction. Isaiah writes: Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you . . . Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. . . (Is 60: 1-3). And today we hear of several men who see that light.

We are most familiar with the image of three “kings” as we hear sung in the traditional Christmas carol but our “Magi” as St. Matthew reminds us in the Gospel today are not particularly royal persons. Magi or “magoi” were essentially astrologers by profession. They studied planetary bodies and the movement of stars in the night sky. To them, everything they saw had purpose and in this story, they recognize a new star in the night sky. To them it meant the birth of a new royal person, a king for the Jews, so they do what they do best. They see a new light and like the towers which guard the coast line they take note and move with great curiosity in the direction of that light hoping to discover a new world.

They find Herod, paranoid about his position but acquainted with the writing of the Jewish prophets about the Messiah, who sends them on their way with ulterior motives. Once the Magi find the child, led by the light, they take rest and surrender the tools of their trade and riches fit for a King but God had other intent. Once again, as with Mary and Joseph, an angel steps in and the Magi are directed to change course but they leave forever changed by this event; transformed by the person they have discovered.

In a sense, God the Father is acting like a parent or grandparents who carry pictures of their grandchildren in purse and wallet and never pass up an opportunity to show others their perfect child. In this scene, God says to us as he said to the Magi, the Gentile world from the East, “Look at my Son! What do you think? He is here for you!” The Magi are us as it were and we are invited to see this child as one who is destined for greatness – for our salvation. He will show us a new way to follow and he is that light which shines for all to notice. All this foreshadows the all inclusive mission of Christ – for Jew and Gentile alike.

In our second reading, St. Paul reminds us, “. . . the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus . . .” (Eph 3: 6).

This Feast is rich in symbolic value and reveals to us the fullest meaning of who this child is and what his destiny will be. In Christ, the distant unknowable God diminishes the mystery which hides him from us and invites us to follow a star of wonder. Our celebration of the Eucharist is a light that brings us to receive him and share him as our hope and the hope for all humankind.

We are called to be beacons of light, standing on the shores of life’s dangers and direct others who see Jesus Christ, not by our words alone, but more by the integrity of our lives and the witness we offer to the truth of the Gospel. What gift have I received? Is my gift appropriate for this “king?” How can I bring others to see and recognize this Christ as the gift of the Father among us?