Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
Throughout the history of salvation, we have seen how God acts in ways that are surprising, often times reversing the expectations of humanity. We have seen this throughout Scripture. But let’s just think back to the great celebration we experienced last week.
The Jewish people believed that a Messiah would come for them and only them, to save them from captivity and to lead them to a place of prominence and everlasting peace. They believed that the Messiah would be powerful and mighty. At Christmas, we see how God reverses that expectation and instead sends the Messiah as a tiny baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The exact opposite of what the Jewish people expected.
In the feast that we celebrate today, the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, we have another example of how God is reversing expectations.
The word Epiphany means a manifestation or revelation. Literally, a ‘drawing back of the veil.’ On this day, the veil is drawn back on the great mystery of the purpose and mission of Jesus. Today, it is revealed to the Magi that Christ did not just come to save the Jewish people; instead, Christ came to save the Gentiles as well…He came to save everyone.
The Feast of the Epiphany is one that shows us how God desires for all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Salvation and knowledge of God’s love for each of us is not something that is reserved for a limited few. Instead, it is for all people. God choosing to reveal himself to the Magi is the event that reverses the expectations of the Jewish people about who the Messiah was meant to be. It shows how God invites all people – Jew and Gentile – to share on an equal footing the benefits of salvation won by Christ, something that our 2nd Reading for today speaks about. It is in Christ that all of humanity become heirs to the Promise of salvation, all become members of the same body…the Body of Christ, the Church.
As we have heard in the readings and the prayers during the Masses throughout this Christmas season, Christ is the light that has come into the world, the light that was meant to reveal God to all the nations. The three Magi represent all the peoples of the earth seeing that light in the distance—the distance of their situation, of their cultural differences—and heading toward it. A distant light, a star, became a beacon that led them to the Eternal Light, the Light that stepped down from Heaven and entered into the darkness and brokenness of humanity. The Father had put a spotlight on his newborn Son, and the Kings had to come out of the darkness and see it. As a result, it began shedding light on them as well. It brought them into the light and made it possible for them and all the Gentiles to be invited to dwell with that Light for all eternity.
But that invitation to dwell in the Light didn’t stop with the Magi or the Gentiles. It continues to be extended even today. The salvation that has been won by Christ continues to be open to everyone in our day and age. As Christians, we are called to go out and to make that Light known in our world, by sharing the experiences that we have had with Christ. Each one of us should strive be like the star that guided the Magi: we are called to be those steady witnesses to Christ, attracting other people to the Eternal Light that continues to shine brightly in the midst of our dark world.
So many people in our world today are seeking fulfillment and purpose in things that will never provide it. They search for it in money, pleasure, and power; in human relationships; in earthly hopes that will come and go. Maybe we ourselves are falling into that same trap of searching for meaning and purpose in things that will never satisfy that desire.
We are called to be different as Christians. We are called to recognize that only Christ provides that fulfillment. We are the ones who have the responsibility of pointing others to the one Light that will always provide that fulfillment. If we aren’t the stars that point others to Christ, to the one Person who answers all our needs and fulfills all our desires, who will?
Our example, our words, our actions should always reflect Christ. As we enter into prayer this week, we should ask ourselves, how can we be more like Christ? Which relationship, habit, or activity in our life needs to be changed so that we can be more like him? Let’s ask him now, during this Mass, when we receive Holy Communion, to show us how He is inviting us to become those stars that point others to Him. Let’s ask for an Epiphany in our own hearts, a manifestation and a revelation of how God is calling us to live for Him. He wants to reverse our own human expectations and He wants us to live solely for Him. Do we have the courage, like the Magi, to respond to that invitation today?