This weekend we celebrate the visit of the magi to the child Jesus. It is often referred to and celebrated as “Three Kings Day” especially in Latino and Mediterranean cultures. Its official name is Epiphany, from the Greek epiphania, meaning that which is revealed, unveiled. The meaning in Greek is reflected in our English language definition: (1): a usually sudden manifestation of the essential nature or meaning of something (2): an intuitive grasp of reality through something usually simple and striking (3): an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. There is a certain excitement and energy that accompanies the moment of epiphany.
We are at the start of a new calendar year in the parish. Unlike September when “things begin again” after summer’s end, there is a great deal of continuity from December to January. And yet it is a new year: 2020 anno domini – in the year of our Lord. A time in which we can again ask the questions about what lays ahead – what epiphanies await us as the months unfold. This is a time of year in which we often hear from the Prophet Isaiah in the readings. Isaiah captures the essence of epiphany: a people who are seeking something – and it is not exactly clear, precise or defined – but they seek it nonetheless, even if only intuitively. They are waiting, hoping for it – whatever it is – to be revealed.
For the magi, the epiphany was Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. And what did they see? They saw a newborn. I mean, we have all seen newborns – and yes, they are the cutest thing ever. We take pictures, we compliment mom and dad, take some more pictures, leave our gifts, and we go home. It is a very nice experience. Life changing? Did dark clouds roll back and reveal the essential meaning of something? Was it illuminating in new and amazing ways? Did our hearts throb and overflow? In no way am I diminishing the wonder of a new-born and the joy it brings to the family, but as great as it is, it’s not an epiphany outside the immediate family. But it was for the magi. When they saw the newborn, they were “overjoyed…prostrated themselves and did him homage. They opened their treasures…” They understood there was something more than just a newborn who would be king. Their epiphany was that this child was Emmanuel, God-with-us, who would be savior and king of the world. Their seeking led them to the Epiphany; their experience led them to give of their treasures. And their world changed.
Back in the day when Steven Job was CEO of Apple, new product roll outs were epiphanies of a secular sort. When he revealed the iPhone, there was pandemonium, amazement, shouts of holy guacamole. It seemed as though the world was forever changed! Today, the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, has the unenviable task of the product reveal. There is applause with an occasional “ooh” and “aah” but it is not the same. What is the same is that people are seeking something, willing to follow, and willing to give their treasures to have it, to be part of it?
I think about our Epiphany of 2020, and this question that come to mind, what are you seeking? What are we as a parish community seeking? We are a 21st century people – we want answers that carry clarity and precision. We want to know the “end game” and have interest in what benefits it brings us personally – as well as benefit to the larger community. But we also need a bit of the magi in us.
There is a richness in the magi that were willing to follow that star, without precise or prefect understanding or information. They followed in hope. They saw the light, got up, and followed. There is a richness in the magi in what they were willing to share of their time, talents, and treasures… not on a quid-pro-quo basis, but in hope of something that was only later to be revealed. They came to give of themselves.
We are not unlike the magi. We have our knowledge of Scripture, our faith. We are steeped in prayer and Eucharist. As Scripture says, we are equipped for every good work. What is your 2020 good work? Maybe you only have an intuition about it – not so precise or clear. Be like the magi, just do it. Begin the journey, follow the star. Maybe it leads to join Hands of Hope to feed the Poor, Love INC at Sacred Heart, St. Vincent de Paul, the Women’s Guild, the Men’s Prayer group, Knights of Columbus, faith formation for kids or adults, or any manner of ministry in the name of Christ. Maybe it leads to a deeper commitment to prayer and study of God’s holy word.
Be like the magi. Just do it. Begin the journey. Bring along the gifts you already have. Be prepared to have the light of the Lord shine upon you and fill your hearts, overflowing with joy. We celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord in order to remind ourselves that our own epiphany lays in the journey ahead.
It is a new year. Begin your journey anew.