Epiphany of the Lord (January 8, 2017)

Kenneth Woodward, the longtime religion editor for Newsweek magazine says that there are some words that are unmistakably Catholic:

Missalette - strictly catholic
Ejaculation – claims he says that Catholics are the only ones who use the word in polite conversation without batting an eye.
Epiphany - manifestation or showing.

Epiphany is the second part of Christmas time. The time for gift giving in a large part of the world. To celebrate December 25 only, is shortsighted; it is only half the Christmas story. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves:

Do we tend to stop at the story of Christmas with baby Jesus?
Do we move beyond the crib, to the second part?

The Epiphany is manifestation of the good news of God’s love. It involves the search of the magi. (Magi-cians, astrologers are better words than kings.) The scribes had the information, but didn’t use it. Because of the dullness or hardness of their hearts they ignored, “And you, Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah, a savior will arise from you.”

Herod got the information and used it - for his own self-interest - to stay in power. The magi did not know truth, the meaning of life; they had to look for it. They became curious about a star and they followed it. They did not know where it would lead. Wisely, they sought advice from the scribes, the experts. The magi took the information and did use it. The magi were risk takers. They were willing to broaden their horizons.

To find the Lord, we need to seek him as the magi who successfully sought and found him. We do not find god in the book of the scriptures, alone. We find meaning to life by seeing our life experiences in the light of those words. We experience a true epiphany in our lives each time we do this.

Epiphany is about the trials of a journey, about the generosity of bringing gifts, but above all, as an overarching presence: it is about finding and accepting Jesus as the center of our life.

We speak of shepherds and wise men often in the same breath. They are the outer circles in our Christmas crèches; there is, at the center, Jesus in the manger, then Mary and Joseph forming the inner circle. Then, the shepherds and various animals; finally, the wise men.

We have already heard how Mary and Joseph got there. Shepherds had it easy. The directions were excellent. The light was bright. The journey was short. The music was great! The magi – as well as ourselves - have it tougher.

There is plenty of confusion. We are very often in the dark. Sometimes, we, like the whole venture, appear foolish. Sometimes there is danger. Some people whom we would like to please will think we are crazy. Ironically, we think we are searching; but god, we are told, is actually reaching out to us; we are just responding.

The wise men reached their goal, Jesus, at the center. The starlight may have been poor, but it was enough to get them there. Our way may not always be clear; other lights shine brightly in competition. But finding our way always has to do with seeking Jesus; and we always have enough light because Jesus is the light of the world. He is always manifest in the gospel of Matthew which we just read, gifts are a way of expressing, giving ourselves to Christ.

Gold symbolizes deep respect. Our presence at mass is an expression of that gift. Frankensence represents a caring, fragrant presence to others. Myrrh was used for embalming and symbolizes the faith that goes beyond death. Faith is what underpins our gifts. A legend says that Casmir, Melchior, Balthazar travelled proclaiming Jesus’ kingship to Cologne in Germany. In the cathedral that dominates that city, there are their reputed tombs behind the main altar.

It is our respect, our caring and our faith that we bring to our Lord. Only in respecting and loving our lord are we able to enter the stable. Then, we who have found Jesus have the wonderful task of manifesting him to those whose lives we touch, of continuing the epiphany to the ends of the world.