January 6, 2023. Today – the Epiphany of our Lord – is a celebration of the manifestation of the Lord. Jesus being revealed to the whole world.
The very word Epiphany means “manifestation.” Webster’s defines manifestation as: an intuitive grasp of reality through something simple and striking.
Something as simple as a child in a manger. Something as striking as a star.
History is silent about just who or what the Magi really were.
In some translations, they are astrologers, in others they are kings or “wise men.” But we know they brought three gifts.
Gold is symbol of the highest honor and respect. Think of a gold medal – the highest rank. Gold represented Jesus as King of the World – King of the Universe – King of our hearts.
Frankincense was used in worship. It was burned as an offering to God. It represents Jesus as the great High Priest that would offer Himself as a sacrifice for us.
Myrrh was an oil used to anoint a body at burial. Almost a primitive form of embalming.
It signified that this king was going to die. He was going to die for His people. The women on that first Easter morning were going to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with myrrh.
Three is a meaningful number. Three is the number of the Trinity. Three is the number of days Jesus spent in the tomb.
But it also signifies something important for us today.
There are three Magi. They are a group. They are a community.
Community weaves itself throughout the Christmas story.
The news was announced to a group of shepherds. There was host of angels singing Glory to God and peace on earth. All communities.
It’s the beginning of a pattern. At Jesus’s baptism, there will be a crowd of witnesses. When He preaches, He will speak to multitudes. When He performs His first miracle, it will be at a public gathering, a wedding. When He reappears after His resurrection, it will be to a roomful of believers. Even on the road to Emmaus, He presents Himself not to one person, but to two.
That is part of the great mystery of Christianity. We are meant to receive the good news together…to live it together…to celebrate it and share it with one another.
We are in this together.
Thomas Merton – a famous Trappist monk in the middle of the 20th century – said it this way: Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone. We find it with another.
Each of us is called to a personal relationship with God. But that personal relationship is cultivated, supported, and strengthened in the larger community.
Life is hard enough. Discipleship is challenging. We need each other. To walk with each other. To encourage each other. To pray for each other. To accompany each other.
No matter who we are, or where we come from, or where we are on life’s journey, there is always room in that caravan of magi seeking and the finding Jesus.
The Epiphany is an opportunity to ask ourselves: How does God manifest Himself to us? How have we come to know him, love him, serve him, encounter him, experience him. And in particular, who are the people who have been the stars – in simple and striking ways – that have led us to him.
The Epiphany signals to us that Christmas season is drawing to a close. This week – as pack away our Christmas decorations – here is a little suggestion. Leave a Christmas star out – don’t pack it way.
The star led the magi to Jesus. The star showed the world where Jesus was.
We want to be that star. We need to be that star more than ever. To be a sign – a symbol – a reminder – sometimes striking, but more often simple – that that Jesus is here. That he is here for us. That we are here for Him. And that we are here for each other.
Father Neil Sullivan
January 6, 2023