Feast of the Epiphany

01-08-2023Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Although the story of the Three Kings on this Feast of the Epiphany is that they presented gifts to Jesus, in a special sense the story is really about starting with the Three Kings and then all of us are also receiving a gift this feast day: the appearance of the Infant Jesus among us throughout the world. Recall that Jesus had appeared to a few shepherds in Bethlehem, symbolically the Chosen people and He now appears to the Three Kings, consequently symbolically He appears to all of us throughout all time. There is also a subtle and second lesson for us in the story of the Magi, the Three Kings that we must go after and seek this New-Born King Jesus in our lives.

Our first reading is from the Book of Isaiah and it wonderfully proclaims the return of Israel from exile in Babylon. The City of Jerusalem is now filled with a special light and it draws everyone to it. Everyone, from powerful leaders to the weak and vulnerable, are going to Jerusalem. Everyone in the City of Jerusalem is told to look up and see. What an inspirational reading for us. The City is full of people from near and far; some are plainly dressed and some are in exotic attire. What a marvelous place to be for everyone.

Saint Paul in his letter takes up this theme of people coming to a New Jerusalem; these people came from even the far corners and points of the earth. Paul is making clear that we all must understand that salvation is meant for the whole world. Paul writes directly and clearly that those in Christ Jesus, Jews and Gentiles together share the same body, possess the same inheritance, receive the same promise, and share in the good news. He is telling all of us that salvation in Jesus Christ is for everyone, not a chosen or select few.

Matthew accepts the task in his gospel writing of tightly connecting the Old Testament and what became the New Testament scriptures. His genealogy at the start of his gospel is his effort to do so. Matthews tells us who Jesus is in various images and ways: He is born of a virgin; He is “God with us” and He is from Nazareth.

The Magi or Three Kings are symbols for us that stand for people who come to faith in Christ Jesus. The Three Kings were seekers. The star which they saw in the sky impelled them to undertake a journey. They knew that a star was a special sign and that they needed to seek its meaning. The star was the special appearance of the divine; a word in Greek for appearance is “epiphany”. Not only was there an appearance of a special star, there was also the appearance of three kings.

We realize that the Magi were both seekers and travelers. In contrast notice how King Herod had only stayed in one place and did not seek the divine, he only sought that which kept him in power and satisfied his own life. Because they put the effort in journeying and seeking, the Magi found the divine. They were willing to go beyond themselves and even bring gifts for someone else. Probably the most important lesson for us from this “appearance of Jesus to all of us” is that we must put the effort and work into seeking Him and also bring our best gifts to Him.