Feast of Epiphany by Fr Peter Chinnappan
Feast of Epiphany (Jan 6): Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2- 3a, 5-6; Mt. 2:1-12
Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany (επιφάνεια), means appearance or manifestation. 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. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.
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 will travel to the Holy City following a brilliant light and will bring gold and incense to contribute to the worship of God. Today’s Responsorial psalm 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 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.
Anecdote # 1: A woman among the Magi? Rev. Benedict Thomas Viviano. A renowned Gospel of Matthew professor, Dominican friar and priest, has a new biblical theory that may change nativity scenes across the globe: there was one (or more) among the Wise Men. His original theory was published in 2011 in Studies of Matthew by Leuven University Press. It’s “perfectly plausible” that Matthew would have understood the magi as some sort of Eastern sages, he said. “On the other hand, the masculine plural magi does not close the question of gender. “The main reason to think of the presence of one or more women among the magi is the background story of the queen of Sheba, with her quest for Israelite royal wisdom, her reverent awe, and her three gifts fit for a king,” Viviano suggested. His second reason to suspect the presence of the feminine is the Israelite tradition of personifying wisdom as a woman, he said (Proverbs 8:22-30; 9:1-6; Book of Sirach, 24). Viviano’s third argument for his female magi cause is that Matthew’s Gospel later characterizes Jesus as embodying wisdom, which Jewish literature considers female and even terms Lady Wisdom. The passages he refers to are Matthew, Chapter 11:19 and 25-30. What difference it would have made if there was a woman among the magi? A women’s magazine says: They would have come before the birth of Jesus, brought provisions for the child and his mother and the woman would have served as a midwife!
# 2: Artaban the fourth Wise Man: In 1895, Henry van Dyke wrote the “Story of the Other Wise Man,” a fourth wise man called Artaban. Our hero is not mentioned in the Gospel because he missed the caravan. He got to Bethlehem too late to see the baby Jesus. But Artaban did make it in time to save one of the Holy Innocents by bribing a soldier. For 33 years Artaban searched for Jesus. He did not find him. But all the while the Fourth wise man fed the hungry, helped the poor. Then one day in Jerusalem Artaban saw the “King of the Jews” being crucified. He started to offer a pearl as ransom. But then he saw a girl being sold into slavery to pay family debts. Artaban gave his pearl to buy freedom for the girl. Suddenly the earth quaked as Jesus died on the cross and a stone struck Artaban. Dying, he heard a voice saying: “When you helped the least of my children, you helped me. Meet me in heaven!” Artaban, the fourth Wise Man, had been making God present in his community for years by helping others. God asks each of us on the feast of Epiphany to be a fourth Wise Man by becoming God’s epiphanies, making His love present in the world around us by our acts of love and kindness.
#3: “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” Little Amy was looking through the family album and found a picture of a man sitting behind a cow. All that was visible was the man’s legs and feet. When her photographer uncle who owned a photo, studio came to visit her mother Amy told him, “This is the only picture of my grandfather that we have. So please remove the cow so that I may see what he looked like.” It is the same curiosity which led the Magi to follow the star of Bethlehem. 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.” The same element of suspense marked the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit was going to take them down next. Today’s readings invite us to have the curiosity of Amy and the school students so that we may discover the “epiphany” of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere.
Life Messages: (1) Let us make sure that we belong to the third group. a) By worshiping Jesus at Mass with 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. Just as the Magi chose another route to return to their homes, let us choose 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. Let us remove the darkness of the evil around us by 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 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 by 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. (d) Our gift of peace by seeking God’s peace in our own lives through prayer, the Sacramental life and daily meditation on the Word of God.