The glory of God has shined upon us. For "the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same Body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." [Eph. 3:6] Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass that commemorates Epiphany Sunday.
According to the New Catholic Dictionary of 1929, the word
"Epiphany" had its origin from the Greek word "epiphaino."
"Epi" signifies "upon," "phaino" signifying "show."
Combined, these words means "to show upon." This Feast, usually
celebrated on January 6 th, commemorates the manifestation of the
glory of Christ that was shown upon the Gentiles in the person of
the Magi, as well as His Baptism and the first miracle at Cana.
Originating in the Eastern Church in the 3 rd century, it soon
spread to the West, where it is now commemorated especially for the
apparition to the Magi. In England and many European countries it
is popularly known as Twelfth Night (after Christmas) and is the
occasion for the revival of numerous quaint customs.
Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 60:1-6] was the
beginning of three Chapters of prophecies that provided a lyrical
description of the new Jerusalem. In the new Jerusalem, the glory
of God would be seen, not only upon the Jewish nation, but also
upon the Gentiles. This truth is made very obvious in the last
verse where it states, "They shall bring gold and frankincense, and
shall proclaim the praise of the Lord." [Is. 60:1-6] As the Gospel
of Matthew affirms, "wise men (magi) from the East came to
Jerusalem" [Mt. 2:1] and offered baby Jesus "gifts of gold,
frankincense, and myrrh." [Mt. 2:11]
Have you ever wondered why the three magi offered gold,
frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus. Surely, they could have
offered something more valuable such as diamonds, platinum and
gold. Now that has value! Obviously, it was not the goal of the
three magi to offer baby Jesus valuable items. Their goal was to
offer symbolic items. Gold was a gift that was fit for a King.
The magi did not perceive Jesus as their equal but rather as their
King. Frankincense was a gift fit for a priest. The magi
perceived Jesus to be a priest, one who is an advocate between God
and man. Myrrh was used to embalm the dead. While the magi
perceived that Jesus was their King and a priest, they also
perceived that He would die for the salvation of mankind.
As the Holy Scriptures reveal to us, indeed nations have come to
the Light of Jerusalem. In the early life of the Lord Jesus, at
the brightness of the dawn, kings came to adore Him. The visit of
the wise men, as the visit of the shepherds, was followed by
millions of spiritual sons and daughters of God who have sought out
the pure Truth that is found in the Lord Jesus.
The new Jerusalem, the invisible Body of Christ, had its beginning
in the City of Jerusalem. Lk. 24:33, 47; Acts 1:4] It is made
visible through the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that
was personally instituted by Christ Himself. Both, the new
Jerusalem and the Holy Catholic Church constitute the mystical Body
of Christ that unites the angels and the saints of Heaven and
As The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians [Eph. 3:2-3, 5-6] made known
to us today, prior to the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
the salvation of the Gentiles had remained a mystery. While this
truth was prophesied in the Old Testament, it appears that God's
people had been blind to it until such time as the fullness of time
had arrived. Now, by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the
power of the Holy Spirit, the mystery had been revealed to the holy
apostles and prophets. Saint Paul was commissioned to make known
to the world the grace of God that had descended upon the entire
world. By the grace of God, we who are included among the
Gentiles, "have become fellow heirs, members of the same Body,
and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel."
Today's reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 2:1-12] teaches us
that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of king
Herod. History reveals to us that Herod the Great, a satellite
king of Judea, reigned from 37 to 4 B.C. Based on this knowledge,
contrary to what many believe, because of the timing related to the
death of king Herod, Jesus had to be born at least 4 years earlier
than established by the present calendar.
Frequently, the wise men are referred to as "magi." This
singular tense of the word, tangus is a term that was used
in those days to mean any one skilled in occult knowledge and
power. Because Matthew mentioned that the magi observed the star
rising, [Mt. 2:2] this supports that they had knowledge of
astrology. Another factor to consider is that they came from the
East. This implies that they came from Mesopotamia, the home of
astrology in the Hellenistic world.
The record of the magi, like the genealogy of Jesus, [Mt. 1:1-17]
confirms that Jesus was the promised King and Messiah. For it is
a King that the magi were seeking to worship.
When king Herod heard that a King was to be born among the Jewish
people, he panicked and called together all the chief priests and
scribes. He panicked because he was afraid to lose his throne.
After consulting the chief priests and scribes, king Herod learned
that it has been prophesied that the King would be born in
Bethlehem, the land of Judea. [Mic. 5:1-5] Bethlehem of Judea was
the birth place of king David.
Next, we heard that king Herod told the wise men to continue their
journey and when they find the Child Jesus, to report back to him
so he too can go and pay homage to the King of the Jewish people.
As we know, king Herod had no intention whatsoever of paying homage
to the Child Jesus.
And so the magi continued on their journey. The next thing we
heard during the reading from the Holy Bible is that the star led
them, not only to the town, but also to the house where Jesus
dwelled. When the guiding star stopped over the house, the magi
were overwhelmed with joy.
As the story of Christmas tell us, when the magi found the house,
they entered it and found the Child Jesus with Mary His mother.
They knelt before Jesus and presented Him with gifts of "gold,
frankincense and myrrh" [Mat. 2:11] as prophesied in the Old
Testament. [Ps. 72:10; Is. 60:6]
This reading highlights two important truths. First of all, it
reveals the royal messiahship of Jesus to us. Secondly, it tells
us that we as Gentiles are also called to adore the Lord Jesus as
the magi have done.
As fellow heirs to the Kingdom of God, we are called to always be
faithful to the first commandment of God, "I am the Lord your God;
you shall not have strange gods before Me." [Ex. 20:2] When we
have one God, we are loyal to Him. But if we have two masters, we
cannot serve both. We will "be devoted to one and despise the
other." [Mt. 6:24] "For those who live according to the flesh set
their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live
according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the
Spirit." [Rom. 8:5]
As we enter the new year, this provides us with a great opportunity
to review our status before God. Are we faithful to God or do we
have other gods? Are we preoccupied with pride, having elevated
ourselves above God? Is there an obsession with food in our lives?
Is there an obsession with wealth to the extend of having become
uncharitable towards others?
Are some of us over-weighted and exposing ourselves to medical
conditions that can affect our proper functioning in society? Is
there an addiction to illegal drugs, prescribed medications or
alcohol? Is our faith place in astrology, Bingos, VLT's, Casinos
or other forms of gambling? All of these bad habits are
detrimental to our spiritual growth, alienating us from the true
God, the Lord Jesus.
As the Magi knew the true God, let us also remind ourselves of this
truth. With the beginning of a new year, now is the time to make
a resolution to overcome one of our bad habits. Naturally, we
cannot do it alone. By the grace of the Heavenly Father and the
power of the Holy Spirit, in the Most Holy Name of Jesus, we can
overcome all ailments that impede our spiritual growth.
Today, yes today, not tomorrow, let us review our spiritual needs
and commit ourselves to overcoming one of our weaknesses so the
glory of God may shine through us more effectively. May the grace
of God strengthen each and everyone of you in the days, the weeks
and the months to come.