Today we celebrate the Epiphany of Jesus. The word epiphany means manifestation of God, the revelation of Jesus to the Magi from the East. I have very fond memories of this feast from my childhood. I always love to sing We Three Kings, but also I have been fascinated with the statues of the kings. In my parish when I was growing up, the kings would be placed at various places throughout the church during the time after Christmas. This was to symbolize their journey from the East. As kids, we would always be on the lookout for the kings whenever we went to Mass wondering where they would be this time, we were looking for these mysterious travelers.
And these people are truly mysterious. You probably noticed that the gospel actually tells us very little about the Magi. Even their name, Magi, is mysterious. It probably means that they were of the Persian priestly caste. We call them the three kings, but we realize that in the gospel they are simply called the magi. We don't know their names, we don't know who came with them, we don't know how far they travelled, we don't even know how many of them there were. We usually say there were three magi, but we say this because there are three gifts mentioned. Maybe there were dozens of magi bearing these three gifts as a collective gift to the new born king. The details escape us, from one angle this can be quite frustrating.
If the gospel is simply a retelling of historical fact, then this story is not very valuable, since it contains little detail. But, the gospel is not simply a retelling of historical facts. Rather it is the good news of salvation meant to inspire faith and train disciples. So, this passage is meant to inspire and instruct, I believe it is very valuable since it does this well.
First, this is the manifestation of God to the nations. These mysterious travelers are certainly not Jewish, certainly not from the little town of Bethlehem. But to them is revealed this Child, the great King, the Son of God. In other words, Jesus came as the fulfillment of the prophets, to fulfill the promise made to King David. But, these magi remind us that this savior has a universal mission. He came for all of us. These foreigners represent all of us who are not descendants of Israel—If Christ was not revealed to the nations, we would not be here. St. Matt's parish is a great example of the universal mission of Christ, who was revealed to all peoples. We come from various backgrounds and locations, but we are drawn together the by manifestation of Christ. We are drawn here by our common faith that this little baby is truly the Son of God.
As Christians, every time we gather to celebrate the Holy Mass we live out this passage of the Bible. We are called here, not by the light of a star, but by the light of faith. We no longer find Christ as the infant lying in the manger, we find him in his Body and Blood, the Holy Eucharist. Like the magi we arrive from many different backgrounds and locales. Also, we come bearing gifts, not the gold, frankincense, and myrrh; but, we come offering our minds, hearts, and souls in worship. I see the Mass as a living out of this story of the magi, hopefully this helps inspire our faith and our devotion to the Holy Mass, and as I said the Bible is meant to inspire our faith. But, it also instructs us as disciples. What do we learn about discipleship here?
Notice that after they meet Jesus the magi return home, but they go by a different route. When we finish celebrating this Mass we all return home, but do we walk by a different path, does the Mass change our lives? There is a catchy slogan out there you often seen in Churches: come as you are. Which is great, we all come from different places in our lives. But, hopefully we don't leave as we are. Every time we gather here God reveals his beloved Son to us, the Light shining upon us. And when we go forth from this great Epiphany we are to shine this light to all the world. We come as we are, but hopefully we go home by a different route.