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January 6, 2019 - What Do We Bring?

The Epiphany of the Lord

Scripture Readings

There is a small Christian population in south-eastern Turkey who speak the same language that Jesus spoke – Aramaic. Thirty years back, there were about 50,000 Christians in this area. Today, there are merely 2,500 of them. The Christians of this tradition say that, instead of three kings who came to do the child Jesus homage, there were twelve kings. They are not alone in claiming that there were more than three kings. St. Jacob and Michael the Syrian (also known as St. Michael the Great) also claim that there were either 11 or 12 kings. Matthew, whose account we rely on, mentions three gifts, but not how many kings brought these three gifts. Neither Matthew, nor the tradition of St. Jacob, St. Michael the Great or the Aramaic Christians in south-eastern Turkey name the kings as Melchior, Balthasar and Caspar. These names belong to a totally different tradition. No matter which tradition we ultimately believe in – the feast of the Epiphany has implications for us. 

 I propose these three implications: 

1. Nations Shall Walk By Your Light. Epiphany means “manifestation.” Epiphany is the celebration of God-become-incarnate, word-made-flesh, Emmanuel, God-with-us, being make known to the world and its nations. That is not all. “Nations will walk by your light,” says Isaiah, in today’s first reading. In other words, Epiphany is also the nations’ acknowledgement of Christ as the light of the nations. In other words, the gospel must be the light of the nations. Sadly, Herod did not join the magi in doing homage to Jesus. He felt threated by this innocent, harmless, little child. Jesus came a create a world order where no one has to be threatened by another, where enemies become friends, where every person is valued, where spears are transformed into pruning hooks, where the lion dwells with the lamb, where love is the only law and peace the only goal. Jesus truly is the light of the nations. And then we look at our world and realize how far we have yet to go. Epiphany makes us look at our own attitudes and perspectives. Who are we threatened by? We are being invited to be less like Herod and more like the magi. Epiphany is an invitation to embrace God’s vision for the world and its nations.  

2. Epiphany tells us that God loves the World. Epiphany is a global feast. It is true that, on the one hand, each one of us must offer our personal homage to the divine child. However, Epiphany is not merely an individualistic feast. Epiphany is not the feast of Jesus’ manifestation to individuals or to a few individuals or even one nation or even three kings. The tradition of more than three kings tells us that Jesus was manifest to greater numbers. Indeed, Epiphany is the feast of the manifestation of Jesus to the whole world. The rich kings and the poor shepherds, men and women, adult and children, righteous and sinner, nature and creatures - Epiphany tells us that God loves the entire world. The practical implication of this feast is that we approach the world the way God in Jesus did. Many people look the world with an us-and-them attitude. Much of our discourse today is guided by competition, the desire to gain racial, national, and religious superiority, the desire to dominate and control. In the midst of all of this we adore a child who came and loved the world as a child does. To adore this divine child is to look the world like God does – less as us-and-them but as a ‘we.’ Can we do that?  

3. What Do We Bring Him?  The gospel tradition of the Epiphany tells us that the magi (whether 3, or 11, or 12), brought him gold for a king, frankincense for the divine, and myrrh for his burial. In other words, they brought him gifts that fit the nature of the divine child. They did not bring things that they found important for themselves, rather, they brought gifts that befit the Son of God. What do we bring for this Christ-child? What do we bring that befits the Savior of world? What do we offer that makes Christ shine through? I want to leave you with that question. As individuals, among friends, among faith sharing groups, and as a family, talk about it, pray about it, reflect upon it.   

May our Eucharist be our act of homage today.

- Fr. Satish Joseph.