[The Epiphany of the Lord, Year C, 3 January 2016 / Isa 60:1-6 / Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13 / Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 / Matt 2:1-12]
On this day I put the Three Magi (or Wise Men) directly in front of the child Jesus in our nativity scene because today after a long journey following a star they finally arrive. Falling on their knees they offer their symbolic gifts — gold for a King, incense for the High Priest, and myrrh, used in burial for the one who will die to save us. Contemplating the manger scene who did God manifest himself to? The wise men were those who followed a star which can represent faith. All those present had faith. Mary had been told, “Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s promises to you would come true.” Joseph had believed what the angel had told him as had the shepherds. All of them had first heard before they had seen and all of them believed what they had heard.
Many witnesses of the epiphany of God first heard of his glory before witnessing it directly. They heard first with their ears, then they saw with their own eyes. Once, when St Thomas Aquinas was expressing the manifestation (in Greek = epiphany) of God’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament he said, “Sight, touch, and taste in Thee are each deceived, the ear alone most safely is believed.” Why do we pray? To listen to what the Lord sees. I recently came back from a retreat-excursion with a group of 10. There were many wonderful experiences, some challenges and some things that could have been better. So one thing is what I see but in a moment of prayer I asked Jesus how I should view the overall experience. I understood loud and clear from the Master himself “Give thanks!”
Often our sight, what we see is deceived. In many trials they come like the dark night of the soul and we don’t easily see God’s presence. In the bitter taste we have difficulty to believe that God was present. But sight and taste are often deceived, the ear alone is best believed. That is why before the epiphany and glorious manifestation of the infant King, the light of the nations, the Lord first revealed his glory to the chosen witnesses before they saw him in the flesh. Otherwise they may not have fully understood or been convinced that this little baby was truly the Savior, the Messiah, Wonder-counselor, mighty God, eternal Father and the Prince of Peace.
Only the one who first bends his ear in prayer will be able to bend his knee in front of the Lord’s presence. If we do not recognize his coming in his Word how can we recognize him when he comes in his glory? There is no seeing if there is not first hearing. That is why St Paul writes, “the mystery was made known to me by revelation” (Ephesians 3:2-6). God manifests and reveals the mystery of his love in the Sacred Scripture.
This day the Lord will manifest himself in small ways – in a small piece of bread, in a quiet inner voice in the conscience, in the simple loving gesture of a companion. What we see will depend on our faith, on what we believe. As the first reading tells us, “See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory.” (Isaiah 60:1-6). The one who prays knows the sun is present even when it is cloudy.
Let us be sensitive to the manifestation of God’s love this day. May we rely more and more on what God sees, and may listening to his Word give us a stronger vision of faith. In this way our lives too can be an epiphany, a manifestation of God’s love for his people. Many have not yet discovered the love of God. The feast of today is a reminder that God’s light, life and love are for all people. God wants his love to reach to all people. Each one of us can share in this great task and mission. We too are called to be light. Jesus needs you to be an epiphany or a manifestation of his love. Go for it! Don’t let anyone stop you. There are many Herods who will try to get in the way. But keep your eyes fixed on Christ and stay away from Herod. Like the Wise Men. They really were wise because they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod so they went home another way.
Jesus is telling us in this Feast, “Be an epiphany of my love to all!” We can respond “Jesus, increase my faith. Help me to listen to your Word and believe it so that my life can be a bright and shining epiphany of your love!!!”