Is. 60:1-6; Ps. 72; Eph. 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt. 2:1-12
(Audio recorded live, 1 January 2022)
Happy New Year and Happy Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. I pray that this year will be full of good health, much love, and especially the revelation of God’s truth. Today, we celebrate the epiphany, the revelation, of the God-man and the awesome significance this event has for all people. The prophet Isaiah speaks of a a great light, the glory of the Lord, which has overcome the darkness to make Jerusalem a shining example to all nations. He also prophesies that the Gentiles will come bearing gifts of gold and frankincense proclaiming the praises of the Lord. We see this prophecy fulfilled in today’s gospel as the magi from the East bring their gifts to the newborn Jesus. And so, today, we also gather to offer our gifts and praises to the Lord.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, says that the mystery of God’s salvation was made known to him by revelation, namely, that the Gentiles are coheirs and copartners in the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel. As he says in his letter to the Romans, “Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rm. 10:17). The gospel, the written word of Christ, therefore, is the light to guide us all.
Matthew describes the account of the magi, traveling from the East to pay homage to the newborn king. Magi is short for “magician,” which is a kind of occult practitioner. They would read signs in the stars, which were an ancient source of navigation for all people in the ancient world, but they were also the topics of many myths and stories. But, what we see happening in the gospel is God using the stars to lead the magi to the source of ultimate truth, to lead them to Jesus.
I am not advocating that all paths lead to God, but rather, at the appointed time, God used the practices of the magi to bring them to Christ so that they may be transformed. And what does Matthew tell us about the transformation of the magi? “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.” The early Christians called their religion “The Way.” Is it any surprise, then, that these foreigners, having encountered the revelation of God in the baby Jesus, would begin to follow another way?
So, what about us? Revelation literally means unveiling. How many of us have been living in darkness? How many of us have been out of the loop? How many of us have been pumping our heads full of nonsense, rather than truth? These are hard questions to ask, but unless we are courageous enough to ask them of ourselves, we may find ourselves wandering in darkness. Seek, rather, the light of Christ. He is the one who has come to be our truth; he is the one who has come to show us the way; he is the one who has come to give us life.
One last point about today’s gospel. The star the magi followed led them to Jesus. Many of us like to imagine this star as a kind of drifting light, or comet in the sky. What if it is nothing of the sort? What if the star they followed was the Sun? What if the magi discovered Jesus at high noon, when the Sun is directly overhead? When the Sun is directly overhead, there can be no shadows, only pure light. Perhaps this is an image we might consider, as the light of day perpetually extinguishes the darkness of night.
It is impossible to avoid themes of light and dark during the Christmas season, especially as our days are now getting longer. So, this Epiphany, may the Lord Jesus give us true light that we may see our life as it truly is. And may the communion we share in the blood of Christ, strengthen our faith, hope, and love, so that as we ring in the new year, we will seek to walk in the light of Christ.