Feast of the Epiphany
On his knees
On their knees
Doing homage to the Lord
Us / Mass
Feast of the Epiphany
On his knees
On their knees
Doing homage to the Lord
Us / Mass
We all have had the experience of walking into a dark room and searching for the light switch. If we are really unfamiliar with the space, anxiety, uncertainty, disorientation, and even fear can easily arise. Once we find the light, all is illuminated, and we are at peace. Our light has come into the world! The glory of God has been revealed! Today’s feast of the Epiphany teaches us to look to our Savior, Jesus Christ, for the way to truly be the human beings we were created to be. He shows us how to prioritize our lives, order our relationships, care for creation, and live as daughters and sons of God. God’s love and creative power is universal, transcending all races and nations. Jesus brings the light of peace to a broken world that still struggles to understand itself and to you and I who also struggle to understand who we are. May we find ourselves overjoyed that we have found our truth and allow Jesus to bring light to the darkness of our lives!
We hear the word “epiphany” mentioned occasionally in the secular world. Recently, I heard the hosts on a sports talk radio show say that the Redskins owner needs to have an epiphany about the state of the football team. No arguments here! We also hear words similar to epiphany such as “Aha moment” and “light bulb went on”. We understand these to mean that it is an awareness or realization of something for the first time, and usually is very powerful. In today’s feast of the Epiphany, we refer to the visit of Christ by the Magi with words like manifestation and revelation. It’s the same concept as awareness and realization, and it means that Christ has been revealed and the three kings realize who he is.
Last year, I gave you the following epiphany formula for the Magi (and for us):
● God will show you a star – something or someone that will lead you to where He is.
● God will reveal Himself to you in a personal and profound way.
● Do Him homage.
● You will be overjoyed in your encounter with Him.
● Offer Him gifts (e.g., your life as gold)
● Go home a different way (i.e., change your life)
Allow me to focus on the first one – God showing a star (a sign). I’m friends with a young woman and her family. She was raised strongly Catholic but has faced a few road bumps in college with her faith. God sent her a star: a young religious sister who has actually been a long-time friend of her family’s. This nun called her out of the blue weeks ago to invite her to a conference with thousands of other Catholic college students in January. She accepted and is currently at the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference in Indianapolis with 17,000 other college students. Yes, 17,000!
This young woman is looking for a sign like the Magi were. If she wasn’t, she would have politely declined the Sister. She has made a pretty serious commitment over her Christmas break. First, she is traveling to and from Indy on a bus with students from another university. That’s bold socially and spiritually! Second, she will be spending a few days with thousands of others doing Catholic stuff continuously – Mass, Adoration, Confession, talks, workshops, etc. It will be uber Catholic. She won’t be the only one there struggling with her faith, of course. But, the vast majority will be strong believers as well as many youth leaders of faith.
For what is she looking? In other words, what is her star? My guess is that her star will be a reason(s) to believe. Another way to say it is she is looking for evidence. She is very smart, and is looking for evidence that this whole thing about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church is for real. She needs to see it for herself. Her parents or priests or even that nun can tell her there was a star, but she needs to see the evidence for herself. She needs to make it her own. And believe me, that conference is custom-made for very intelligent college students like her who need to see in order to believe. I have great confidence that when we speak next, she will tell me about the star she saw that led her (back) to Christ. Her initial star in all of this, of course, was the Sister who invited her to the conference. See what happens when we simply invite people!
God is calling each of us to be a star to someone else. If that isn’t clear to you now, it will be soon. He will use you to be that sign for someone else to have an epiphany about His Son. He has done this for the past 2,000 years. Go back up to the formula of the Epiphany and remember how this happened for you. He used someone else to be a sign for you, and you have done Him homage and been happily changed ever since. He wants you to be the main player in someone else’s Epiphany. He wants you to be a star!
Christ is born!
Can you write your story of faith? This was a question I recently asked a friend as we were discussing our journeys with the Lord. She pondered it, and then thought it would be hard mainly because she didn’t know exactly how she came to be a devout Catholic. She kind of laughed at herself while she was saying this, and it might seem humorous to us, too. But, some in our own congregation might have the same thought: how exactly did I come to really believe in and follow the Lord? Today’s feast of the Epiphany might help to pinpoint exactly the struggle for my friend or anyone else. What was our epiphany about the Lord and when did we have it?
When we talk about the Epiphany, we are referring to the outward manifestation of the Lord to the Magi and to the world. He is revealed to them as the Christ, and they “come to do him homage”. Their epiphany occurred through a star which led them to the baby Jesus. They were “overjoyed” during this experience, and gave treasures to the Lord of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When we hear that they “departed for their country by another way” , we can interpret it as this event changed their lives. This would be the starting point in their stories of faith.
I have described to you my journey of faith in homilies, but I don’t think I’ve written it here in any great detail. Please forgive me if I have! My epiphany happened with the Eucharist. My “star” was Msgr. Thomas Wells. And, it happened when I was 21 years old. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools through the first half of college. Even though I was taught Catholic doctrine at home and in school, not much sunk in the first 21 years of life. I was a clueless Catholic.
But, then, one day, Msgr. Wells and I were talking about the Eucharist. He said, “Greg, ‘this is my body’ means this is my body”. Epiphany! That was the first time I had really heard the teaching on the Real Presence. And, it blew me away. I had heard those words (“this is my body”) hundreds of times before at Sunday Mass, but they never really registered in my mind or heart. And then, after the one-sentence epiphany (or revelation), I saw everything differently: God, Mass, the Cross, the Church, Confession, and life. I began to “do him homage” at daily Mass and Adoration, and was having the same experience of being “overjoyed” as the Magi. Of course, this all changed my life as it did theirs.
In talking to many people for the past 25 years, I realize that not many can point to one moment – and certainly not one sentence – as their epiphany of who Jesus really is. For many, it has been engrained in them since childhood. They have always just believed. But, they have had a multitude of personal epiphanies about the Lord as Savior, Master, brother, friend, Good Shepherd, Prince of Peace, Healer, Divine Physician, etc. For others, the epiphany came as adults, and often in a way that Christ appeared to them in a personal way. That is really the underlying point to our epiphanies: an encounter with the living God in a person, Jesus Christ. Yes, the Magi were overjoyed at “seeing the star”, but only because it “stopped over the place where the child was”. They were so happy because they were encountering the Son of God. As much as I liked Msgr. Wells for 5 years before my epiphany, I didn’t find true joy until he led me to encounter the Son of God in the Eucharist. That’s when the Lord and faith became personal. That’s when an epiphany had taken place, thanks be to God.
So, here is the epiphany formula for the Magi and hopefully all of us:
Christ is born!
New Year’s Eve party
Riches emptied out
Parish / PFOC / Those in need / Children
People’s praise of God + His Presence here
Star stops over place where baby was
Parish is light to others —-> Christ
Are you? Others have epiphany thru u?
Like St Paul
From God’s revelation to him
Like Magi, saw the light
Magi / VIPs
Gave homage to King
Epiphany of Eucharist
Here are excerpts from an excellent, Biblical reflection on the event of the Epiphany from catholicmom.com. Enjoy!
Up until now, all has been quite humble. A donkey-ride to a dusty town south of Jerusalem. Hotel rooms all booked up. Giving birth in a stable and laying the baby in an animal’s feed trough instead of a cozy cradle.
Into this scene of obscure poverty suddenly bursts an exotic entourage from a far-off land. Dignitaries in dress uniform lavish the newborn with expensive gifts that seem out of place in the humble surroundings.
This event is so significant that it is accorded its own feast in the Roman liturgy, celebrated traditionally on Jan 6, immediately after the twelve days of Christmas. This solemn feast is called Epiphany, a word that means “manifestation” or “appearance.”
For a fleeting moment, what seems to be no more than another crying baby of an indigent family “appears” for who He really is–the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The gifts he is given, prophesied in Isaiah 60:6, tell the story: gold fit for a king, incense for the worship of God, and myrrh, bitter yet precious, for the hero who will lay down his life for his people.
There are several important things to note about these prestigious visitors. They are Gentiles, not Jews. From the very beginning of his human existence, then, Jesus is clearly not just the Jewish messiah who has come to deliver the people of Israel from foreign oppression. No, he is the universal king, the ruler of all, who has come to tear down the hostile wall dividing Jew from Gentile, nation from nation.
If you’ve ever wondered what the word “Catholic” means, here we have it. Derived from Greek words meaning “according to the whole,” it means that Christ did not come to establish some local religious sect for a select few, one “cult” among many. No, the Church he founded is “catholic” or universal, spread over the whole world, welcoming the whole human race into one nation, one family, under one King.
Something else is to be noted about these illustrious visitors. As Gentiles, they are pagans. In fact the term “Magi” is clearly linked to the word “magic.” It was not in the Bible that they normally looked for wisdom (otherwise they would have known to go straight to Bethlehem). But in reward for their ardent though perhaps misguided search for truth, God led them to Christ anyhow, in His great mercy…
St. Justin said that there are “seeds of the Word” scattered throughout the world. But seeds are meant to sprout, grow, and bear fruit. Hearing the full gospel and partaking in all the means of grace are ordinarily needed to make that happen. All peoples of the world have a right to this “Catholic” fullness. And it is our obligation to share it. Paul VI said it well: “others may be able to be saved without hearing the gospel, but can we be saved if we neglect to preach it?”
This column is offered as a reflection on the scripture readings for the Feast of the Epiphany, cycles ABC (Is 60:1-6; Ps 72; Eph 3:2-3; 5-6; Mt 2:1-12), and appears here by permission of the author.
Copyright 2015 Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D.
Christ is born!
Fr. Greg Shaffer
3401 Martin Luther King Jr. AVE, SE
Washington, DC 20032
Fr. Greg Cell: 240-463-9960
Outreach Center: 202-561-5941
Reach us by email: