Synopsis of Epiphany of the Lord Mt 2:112 (L-17)
Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany ((επιφάνεια), means appearance or manifestation. Multiple revelations of Jesus as God are celebrated in the Feast of the Epiphany. First, the angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds. In the Western Church, the Feast of the Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ first appearance to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, while in the Eastern Church, the feast is the commemoration of the Baptism of Christ where the Father and the Holy Spirit gave combined testimony to Jesus’identity as Son of God. Later, in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed himself as the promised Messiah, and at Cana he revealed his Divinity by transforming water into wine.
Scripture lessons: Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring him their hearts. The adoration of the Magi fulfills the oracle of Isaiah (first reading), prophesying that the nations of the world would travel to the Holy City following a brilliant light and would bring gold and incense to contribute to the worship of God. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72) includes a verse about kings coming from foreign lands to pay homage to a just king in Israel. Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus (today’s second reading), expresses God’s secret plan in clear terms: “the Gentiles are…copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Today’s Gospel reminds us that if God permitted the Magi – foreigners and pagans – to recognize and give Jesus proper respect as the King of Jews, we should know that there is nothing in our sinful lives that would keep God from bringing us to Jesus. There were three groups of people who reacted to the Epiphany of Christ’s birth. The first group, headed by King Herod the Great, tried to eliminate him, the second group, priests and scribes, ignored him and the third group, represented by the shepherds and the Magi, came to adore him.
Life Messages: (1) Let us make sure that we belong to the third group: a) by worshiping Jesus at Masswith the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration; b) by giving a new direction to our lives , choosing (as the Magi chose another route to return to their homes), a better way of life, abstaining from proud and impure thoughts, evil habits and selfish behavior; c) by becoming stars leading others to Jesus as the star led the Magi to Jesus — removingthe darkness of the evil around us and radiating Jesus’ love through selfless service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate care. (2) Like the Magi, let us offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of the Epiphany: (a) our gift of friendship with God in the form of wholehearted love and devotion; (b) our gift of friendship with others by leading them to Jesus through our exemplary lives of Christian charity in action; (c) our gift of reconciliation with God by daily asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins and giving unconditional forgiveness to our offenders; and (d) our gift of peace by seeking God’s peace in our own lives through prayer, leading a Sacramental life and meditation daily on the Word of God.
EPIPHANY OF THE LORD (Jan 8): Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12
Anecdote: # 1: “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” This sense of suspense and surprise prompted us to watch the seven episodes of the Star War movies. The same desire for epiphany with the thrill and suspense awaiting them prompted adults to watch James Bond films and encouraged the great explorers like Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus to make risky and adventurous journeys. It is the same curiosity which led the magi to follow the star of Bethlehem. An element of suspense marked every moment in the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit of God was going to take them down next. Today’s readings invite us to have the same curiosity as explorers and movie fans do, so that we may discover the “epiphany” or manifestation or Self- revelation of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere.
#2: History of Epiphany: Next to Easter, Epiphany is the oldest season of the Church year. In Asia Minor and Egypt, Epiphany was observed as early as the second century. The Festival of the Epiphany fell (and still falls), on January 6. It was observed as a unitive festival — both the birth and Baptism of Jesus were celebrated at this time. January 6 was chosen as Epiphany Day because it was the winter solstice, a pagan festival celebrating the birthday of the sun god. In 331 AD the solstice was moved to December 25, but January 6 continued to be observed. Christians substituted Epiphany for the solstice. The emphasis was upon the re-birth of light. In keeping with this time, the First Lesson for Epiphany Day is appropriate: “Arise, shine; for your light has come.” The unitive Festival of Epiphany was divided when December 25 was chosen as the birthday of Jesus. The Church in the East continued to celebrate Epiphany in terms of the Baptism of Jesus while the Western church associated Epiphany with the visit of the Magi. For the East the Baptism of Jesus was more vital because of the Gnostic heresy claiming that only at his baptism did Jesus become the Son of God. On the other hand, to associate Epiphany with the Magi is appropriate, for the Magi might not have gotten to Bethlehem until a year after Jesus’ birth. By this time the holy family was in a house rather than in a stable. If this was the case, then the Magi could not have been a part of the manger scene popularly portrayed in today’s Christmas scenes and plays. The Vatican II lectionary and calendar combine the two by placing the visit of the Magi on Epiphany Day and the Baptism of Jesus on Epiphany 1 (The First Sunday after the Epiphany).