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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
 
Homilies/Reflections

Epiphany
By FR JULIUS OLAITAN

January 8, 2018

 

EPIPHANY SUNDAY

 

Dear friends in Christ, today we celebrate the Epiphany. The word epiphany means, ‘a manifestation or revelation,’ or literally, the ‘drawing back of the veil.’ In the early Church the Epiphany celebrated three events of the life of Jesus: the visit of the Magi, the baptism of the Lord, and the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. The main focus of the Epiphany is the revelation of Jesus to the Gentiles, symbolised by the story of the Magi. These wise men went beyond searching for the meaning of the strange star. They completed their journey by worshipping the newly born in Bethlehem. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and received unfathomable joy as they experienced the Lord. 

 

First Reading  (Isaiah 60:1-6)

Isaiah prophesied, “Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” The rising light has become a sign of deliverance, just like the city is resplendent with beauty, when the sun appears. Isaiah sees in this vision, the very light of God’s glory. All those who had been taken into exile will return with their captors. In this, is a universal notion of salvation, the light of the city is attractive not only to the exiles, but also to their captors. Christ is the light rising above Jerusalem.  The Church is the New Jerusalem from where the Lord shines forth to all nations. As Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world, a city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden…let your light shine forth for the world to see.”

 

Second Reading (Ephesians. 3: 2-3a. 5-6)

God’s preference for Israel was quite evident in the Scriptures. It was a belief among many Jews, that they constitute an elite(special) group in the sight of God. Paul’s own interpretation of the events of salvation is a bit different. He proclaims equality between Jews and Gentiles, as they would be united in the body of Christ. “…It has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets…How the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” 

 

Gospel (Matthew 2:1-12)

According to Matthew, after the birth of Christ, one of the wonderful things that happened was the visit of the Magi–the wise men. Their identities were not revealed by Matthew.  Where were they from? Their names, how did they travel? How many were they? Perhaps such questions never bothered Matthew as at the time of his writing. The idea of the wise men being kings and the number three, were read into the passage based on prophesy, tradition and the type of gifts presented. These men were able to interpret God’s will through ordinary and extraordinary life events.

 

The Jews were under Roman occupation and had appointed Herod to rule who took the title of ‘King of the Jews’ and also calls himself the Messiah, even though the Jews had no kings since the destruction and exile to Babylon. Herod ruled with violence and brutality, killed the entire Jewish Sanhedrin and anyone who dared to dream of someday taking his position. He even killed his own sons and his favourite wife and he was not even a Jew but an Edomite. 

 

The Jews had the scriptures, and the revelations, but failed to recognise the moment of the arrival of the Messiah, however, these strangers came by the light of a star, only to use the scriptures, to locate the Messiah. They must have come first to the palace in Jerusalem believing that the new born should be from the royal family or at least known to the sitting king. That however was not the case. We are sometimes boxed up in ourselves and fail to recognise the presence of God. 

 

Why was it the wise men lost sight of the star while around Jerusalem? Does that depict the condition of the people of God at this time? Why was the city which housed the Temple and was the Political capital of the Nation hostile to the coming of the Messiah? Troubled concerning what might become of him, Herod summoned the priests and elders to enquire on the prophesies concerning the birth of the Messiah. Micah 5:1-2—points to Bethlehem as the place of the birth. But Herod was also intent on killing the child and so wanted them to return and bring him words.

 

The wise men took a step of faith and were drawn to the Lord. They gave him symbolic gifts.  Gold is the gift for the King. Jesus is the only one we can allow to direct our lives. Frankincense is the sign of the priest. Jesus is the great high priest who bridges the gap between God and human race. Myrrh is the perfume used to anoint the dead. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb whose death restores life. Our lives can only be complete, meaningful and fulfilled, if we are guided by the Spirit of God.  We can only be truly happy, with the happiness that does not end if we share the life of the Spirit. And we can only receive the Spirit if we allow ourselves to be drawn by the Light of Christ.

 

Let us pray: O God, grant that we may be drawn by your light to recognise that only  Christ, can draw us beyond the limits this world imposes, to the life where the Spirit makes all complete. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


 
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