Click on the texts to read the texts: Isa 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12
Ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, openness, receptivity, and the desire to keep seeking in order to find, are some of the themes that are brought to light by the feast of the Epiphany. What is revealed in this feast is not a Christ who is limited to one nation, to one race, or to one people, but a Universal Christ, a Cosmic Christ, a Christ who continues to be relevant for all times, in all places, and for all peoples everywhere.
Epiphany (Greek “Epiphaneia” “appearance or manifestation”) has been defined as the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. The feast is also sometimes called “Twelfth Day” as it is celebrated on the twelfth day after Christmas.
There are two sides to this manifestation of the Christ child. The first is the historical manifestation that took place to the Magi, as narrated by the Gospel of Matthew and as explained to the Ephesians, by Paul, and the relevance it had for them. The second is the manifestation that we, as disciples of Jesus, must continue to make of him today.
The story of the revelation of Jesus to the Magi is found only in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s main intention in narrating this story seems to be that, while the chosen people, represented by Herod and his advisers were unable to recognize the Messiah, the Gentiles, as represented by the Magi, searched diligently for him and were able to find him. Those to whom the revelation was first made preferred not to see. Those, to whom it had not been revealed in the first place, wanted to and so were able to see. This continued to be the case even after the death and resurrection of Jesus. That is why Paul, writing to the Ephesians, lets them in on the mystery that, because of Jesus, Gentiles, who were once far off, have now become fellow heirs and sharers in the promise.
Though this was true and stated emphatically by Paul, we, as Church, have not been able to sustain this truth. We have failed in this regard on at least two counts. The first is that we have restricted Christ to the historical Jesus. We have pigeon holed him and consequently, not allowed him to be the Cosmic Christ that he is. We have become so used to pictures of Jesus that we have found it difficult, if not impossible, to find him in all things and to find all things in him. We have made him as small as we are. This is also why we have not been able to make Christ relevant for our times and for our people. Our liturgies and celebrations are still so westernised that Christ remains, for most of our countrymen and women, a foreign God, a God with whom they cannot relate on any personal level.
The second area in which we have failed is in that of making Christ known. It was the star that guided the Magi to Christ. We are challenged to be that star today. However, rather than being stars, we have often become counter witnesses to Christ. Those who encounter us do not find much of a difference between us and the rest of humanity, although we profess to believe in the Son of God who was revealed to the whole world. The manner in which many of us live our lives is as if Christ had never been born. His coming does not seem to have touched us in any way. Like Herod, and his advisors, we, too, are unable to see, to experience or to encounter.
The feast of the Epiphany throws up this challenge before us: To reveal Christ to those who have not had the privilege of encountering him yet. In order to do this, however, we will have to first make some drastic changes in our own lives.
First, we must realize that the Christ we believe in is bigger than anything we can ever imagine or think. The least we can do is to broaden our vision and learn to find him beyond pictures and images and so, learn to find him in all things and in all places.
Second, we must be able to reinterpret Christ for the world and especially, for our country today. We cannot go on as we are doing now and let Christ be a God only of foreign lands.
Third, the words that we speak, the actions that we perform, and the lives that we lead, as disciples of Jesus, have to be such that we make him present in the midst of a world which does not yet know him.
This universal idea of mission is also spoken of in the first reading of today in which the prophet Isaiah promises a light full of hope. Jerusalem went through destruction and forced migration and was in desperate need of rebuilding. Isaiah proclaimed to the exiles that the darkness of despair had been lifted, and that a new day of restoration has dawned. At last, the light had come! According to Isaiah, the glory of God would shine through Israel onto the other nations. The whole world would come to join in the new liturgy of the new Temple. This is what we, as Christians and as disciples of Jesus, are called to be and do. We are called to be light to those around us. We are called to motivate, to stimulate, and to inspire those around us to worship God in all his glory, the God manifested in Christ, the Saviour.