Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
The Collect [Opening Prayer] for today’s liturgy highlights what we hope for in our celebration of the Epiphany: “O God, who on this day revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy that we, who know you already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.”
Unlike the Magi of Matthew’s gospel, there was no need for us to “traverse afar,” to journey a considerable and challenging distance in order to find the Lord. Most of us have never had to seek the Lord, for we were carried to a baptismal font at an early age and invited to believe in Jesus throughout our youth. In our country, our faith can be freely practiced, and there is no danger of suffering persecution on account of our faith. Is it possible that our faith so easily comes to us that we can never hope to truly discover its “sublime glory”?
Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah comforts the Jewish people by reminding them that while darkness may cover the earth “upon you the Lord shines.” What happens when the Lord shines his light upon the people? “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow,” says Isaiah. The light is not merely there to illuminate the way, as the star guided the Magi, the light is meant to change us for the better. We are meant to become radiant, to become stars, and we are meant with throbbing hearts to let our love overflow and touch the lives of others.
Our epiphany story from Matthew is surely meant to illustrate the revealing of God’s light and love to the Gentiles, the non-Jews who are spoken of by both Isaiah and Matthew. That revelation, Matthew proclaims in his beautiful story, takes place from the moment of Christ’s birth. The kings/astrologers/magi represent all people who respond positively to the light that shines in our darkness.
There is a three fold response to Jesus’ birth as described by Matthew. The first, represented by Herod, is one of rejection and violence. Herod is threatened by the presence of the light, this “newborn King,” and he seeks to eliminate the light as he eliminated others who threatened his power and authority. The second response is illustrated by the priests and scribes and Pharisees who were indifferent to Jesus’ birth, and who did their best to ignore Jesus during his public ministry. The third response is one of adoration, so beautifully represented by lowly shepherds and majestic kings. We are meant, on this celebration of Epiphany, to be numbered among those who adore, who not only see the light but make every effort to allow the light to enter their hearts. May we be transformed by the radiant light of Christ, and may that light cause our hearts to overflow with a love that will enable all of our brothers and sisters to see the “sublime glory” of the God we worship.