First reading: Is. 60:1–6
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
Second reading: Eph. 3:2–3a,5–6
Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Gospel: Mt. 2:1–12
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
In other words
Fr. Raymun J. Festin, SVD (Rome, Italy)
We celebrate today the solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus. The verb form of the word epiphany is epiphainein, which means to “reveal,” “manifest,” “disclose,” or “unveil.”
The phenomenon of Epiphany is associated with the reality and presence of light. Think of the lightning. When it flashes, the light reveals things in their hiddenness.
In the First Reading, the prophet Isaiah proclaims to Israel: “Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord has dawned… Nations shall walk by your light.”
In the Gospel, the wise men saw Christ’s “star at its rising and came to do him homage.”
When something, for instance a secret, is revealed or disclosed, it is like a light has been thrown on it. It is as if it is ferreted out of darkness and brought under the ray of light.
That is the deeper meaning of Epiphany: the disclosure of a secret.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul talks about the “mystery” (the divine secret) that has now been made known through God’s revelation. This mystery is already unveiled and brought to light.
And what is this mystery or secret that has been disclosed?
It is the secret that, according to St. Paul, “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
What this means is that, essentially, all nations and all peoples are called to be members of God’s family. No longer is the light of salvation exclusive to the Jews. It now shines on all men and women, on every people and nation.
And this is what the celebration of Epiphany is all about. That God’s offer of salvation is for all is something of groundbreaking importance during the time of Jesus.
The Jews thought that the Messiah would come to liberate them from Roman rule, reign over the nations of the Earth, and usher in the Messianic or golden age of Israel. Their expection was dashed. The Messiah whom they thought would restore the glory of the Davidian reign turned out to be a Prince of Peace and the Savior of all.
The Epiphany of the Lord as the Light of the nations is exemplified in the persons of the wise men who came to do homage to the Child Jesus and to offer him fitting gifts. They came from the East in a faraway land. They were not Jews. They were Gentiles to whom God revealed his Son as Light.
Jesus as the Light of the world is for all peoples, just as the Sun casts its light on all of us.
Sometimes it is difficult for us to accept that Jesus also calls—and loves—those who are different from us: people from other cultures, people who profess a different faith, people who come from different political persuasions, people of a different color—even people we do not like.
But the universality of Jesus includes the notion that everyone is invited to receive his light and grace.
When I was young, my aunt threw a party in her home. I think it was her birthday. One of the guests was appalled to see that a person whom she did not like was also invited. “Why is she here?” she asked my aunt. My aunt simply smiled and didn’t say anything. Looking back, I think she must have said to herself in reply to the question, “Well, it’s my party.”