Epiphany! The dictionary defines it as a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience. That’s definitely what we have today. The Magi came from a far land to worship the newborn king, the Baby Jesus. A star led them to Bethlehem and to the manger where Jesus lay.
Every year we put up the crib before Christmas. Then we symbolically place the figure of the baby in the manger on Christmas Eve. Today we complete the picture with the arrival of the figures of the three kings. There’s one more week of the Christmas season which ends with the baptism of Jesus. Next Sunday we’ll take it all down.
There’s a ton of symbolism in the way we celebrate the birth of Christ. We spend four weeks getting ready for Him to come. Then we have the glorious celebration of His birth on December 25. On the following Sunday we commemorate the Holy Family.
This one’s a little strange. All of a sudden Jesus is twelve years old. He’s separated from Mary and Joseph and they look for Him for three days. When they finally found Him He said the words that must have broken Joseph’s heart, “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” The lesson we learn is that apparently Mary and Joseph still weren’t quite sure what to make of this
“Son of God”. If they did, wouldn’t the temple have been the first place they looked? Where else did they look for three days? But I digress.
Getting back to our Liturgical calendar, on January 1 we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Jesus is a baby again. Sometimes this is called the feast of the circumcision, because that’s how the day’s Gospel ends. But the emphasis here should be on Mary. “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”. Imagine how overwhelmed this young girl must have been.
That brings us to today, the Epiphany; a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience. Seeing a tiny newborn lying in a feeding trough for animals, about as simple and homely an experience as anyone is likely to have, the Magi suddenly, intuitively perceive the reality of what they’re seeing; the Son of God.
We know that the shepherds have seen the child but these men aren’t shepherds. They’re not even Jews! They’re powerful kings from a foreign land and they’ve been called by God, led by a star, to be witnesses to the birth of the Messiah. The Gospel ends with them departing for their own country to deliver the good news of what they’ve seen.
Here’s the thing. Jesus wasn’t sent just for the Jews. Paul tells us in the second reading that “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise of Jesus Christ through the Gospel.” He may have been the Messiah that the Jewish people had been waiting for but He was our Messiah too.
You and I can have an epiphany just like the Magi did. Jesus reveals Himself to us in many ways, usually in ways that we’ll miss if we’re not paying attention. Someone says or does something that touches your heart. You pick up a book and something in its pages seems to speak just to you. Maybe you see a small child or a homeless person and you feel the need to do something.
The other day there was a dog on Telegraph Road. He must have been hurt because he was running back and forth from one side of the street to the other. There was a major traffic jam because everyone stopped not wanting to hurt it. I thought at the time that there was still goodness in the world. So many people were willing to be late for work rather than take a chance on hitting someone’s pet.
Your epiphany may come in church. It may come at work. It may come while you’re driving your car. You never know. We have to be paying attention.
Next Sunday we’ll take down the Christmas decorations and return to Ordinary Time. But even in the taking down there’s symbolism. The trees and the lights and the manger may be gone, but Jesus remains with us. We just have to look a little harder to see Him. Finding Him in the ordinary things of our daily lives is our Epiphany.
This ends my homily but I was listening to Cardinal Dolan’s homily for Sunday and he made an interesting point. The Magi were looking for an adult king. Imagine how surprised they were to find an infant! You can listen to the Cardinal’s homily here.