In the feast of Epiphany we celebrate God who reveals himself as Light of the world and Saviour of the entire humankind. But are you aware of how God is revealing himself to you? And how are you responding?
Bible readings Isaiah 60: 1-6 Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-13 Ephesians 3: 2-3, 5-6 Matthew 2: 1-12
What’s in the word “Epiphany”?
Epiphany, originally Greek word, means manifestation. It’s a kind of Eureka or breakthrough in the sense that you suddenly realise or discover something that appears in a striking manner.
In the solemnity of Epiphany God, in the infant Jesus, reveals himself beyond the borders of the Jewish territory and religion. He manifests himself, by means of a star, in the manner suitable to the people who are outside the covenant. Indeed, what a pedagogue God is!
Epiphany in the journey of faith
We celebrate this feast, not merely to commemorate the past, but in order to awaken our senses of faith to the signs of God who’s present in our life today. So each one can ask oneself: how is God manifesting himself to me? And how am I responding?
Thus, the Gospel for this feast inspires us, firstly, by keeping us on guard against certain attitudes that may block our journey of faith; and secondly, it inspires us by personages who are models of faith. Yet, that’s not all.
We can also draw inspiration outside the pages of scriptures –daily life is fully of aides for growing in faith. In fact, in this reflection I propose to you, as a point of departure, the theme developed by King Philippe.
As par tradition, every year the King of Belgians delivers a Christmas message which, this time, focussed on looking at life with wonder –the capacity to marvel. Of course, it wasn’t religious message and yet, I find it, rich as attitude of faith. How does wonder match with epiphany? Well, let’s first situate King Philippe’s speech.
Wonder, an attitude of a child
Before this address, the king had welcomed children who paid him a visit at his palace. He was marked by how curious and interested the children were to learn about his role as king. And in view of the Christmas message that he was preparing, the king touched to hear one child who observed that they were fortunate to be in a beautiful country like Belgium. In this child the king identified a positive attitude that fed on the sense of wonder. King Philippe could only look back with marvel at the various experiences of the visits he made in different places in the course of the year. He invited the rest of the kingdom, despite the challenges that may be there, to look at life with “wonder” rather than with “cynicism or indifference”.
Indeed, persons who have an eye of wonder render themselves unarmed and allow themselves be carried along by the beauty of what they see. Without prefabricated judgement, they just plunge themselves into what’s before them.
Who can’t see such attitude of wonder in the Magi? Yet, other characters in the Gospel seem to have a different attitude. Let’s look at them.
Attitude of Herod
When Herod hears about the inquiry of the Magi: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” his reaction is far from marvel. The birth of a baby, we see it in films, sends mama and papa weeping in joy at this marvel of new life. However, Herod lacks such simplicity needed for wonder; he receives and treats the message in terms of his power. And because of that he commands a merciless killing of innocent children. Herod is not the only lacks such simplicity of wonder.
But also scribes and priests
These are religious figures who have studied the scriptures and they are custodians of doctrine and tradition –they have become consultants. They know what the prophets said about the messiah. In a way, it’s like they know in advance how God should act. They wait to see things fall in place according to the ideas they have sculpted in their heads. Apparently, even God, in order to be recognised, he may need to conform to their ideas. You only understand why the most virulent opposition Jesus faced was that of such religious consultants. Why? They knew too much, at least so they thought, and there was no room left for a surprise –no place for wonder. They could give an answer to the query of the Magi but without realising that the events they were theologising about were actually being fulfilled. Like Herod in his power, our consultants locked themselves up in their expertise –both missed the train.
But not so with the Magi
The Magi are curious. They see the star and they want to explore; they don’t remain indifferent. They put themselves on to the road –thanks to their sense of wonder.
Sometimes we refer to them as pagans, even pejoratively, as religiously uncivilised; yet, even without law and the prophets, these people were rich in the attitude of faith.
And for their interest in stars, won’t we be right to call them astrologists; hence, men of science who study heavenly bodies? Yet, their science does not box them into some self-sufficiency as all-knowing masters. They preserve the sense of wonder, and it keeps them moving.
Don’t we also call them wise men form the East? Indeed, they are wise as they don’t shy away from seeking help and asking to be enlightened when things are not clear to them. They refuse to lock themselves in their own wisdom. They make use of the information of the stagnated experts to get the baby Jesus.
But we also call them the three kings. Ah, then they must be men of power. But their power does not immobilise them; they are open enough to recognise and acknowledge another king before whom they don’t hesitate to prostrate themselves and offer their gifts.
Indeed, a sense of marvel keeps you moving, inspires right questions and makes you grow. We have an example here.
In the footsteps of the magi
Whoever we are or whatever we are; we all have access to the signs of God who’s at work in the world and in our lives. We may be persons of science, cultivated persons, or persons of power –none of these is an obstacle to faith but, in fact, an aide. Perhaps, we would only need to activate our sense of wonder so that, liberated from self-obsession, we can put ourselves onto the road in response to flashes of signals that God sends us, particular to each person, but for salvation of entire humanity. So, be on the alert; God is passing in your life. He manifests himself to us in various and different ways. And then my sense of wonder needs to be open and zoomed.
I become attentive to his signs in my life and, at the same time, I remain open to wonder at the stars that appear in other people’s lives. And if we can talk about dialogue, then it’s not just a religious strategic, but mutual openness and readiness to marvel at the beauty of how God is revealing himself and working in us in multifaceted way. Then, already we can, together, reap the fruits of universal salvation destined for whole humanity (Homily for Epiphany, Year A: Salvation for people of all nations).
Then, what’s the invitation of Epiphany?
Look up! Look out! Not for a star –it’s for the Magi; look out for your sign, and then, quickly, put yourself on the road of better understanding. Oh yes, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” (Is 9:6) When you look at this baby with wonder, you discover, in such fragile and ordinary baby, the depth of the unwavering love of God for humanity, without distinction. But just one caution: don’t prepare too much! Margaret seems to be putting us on guard when she writes:
“But how can you have a sense of wonder if you’re prepared for everything?”
And I add, what’s faith, if it’s not that space for surprise in my relation of trust? Then, check if you still have that space.
Join your mailing list, and tick the posts you’d like to be receiving.
Your relationship in 2018: Do you know the enemy of your relationship?