Epiphany of the Lord

January 03, 2021

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Revelation of Christ to the World

[ Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3,5-6; Mt 2:1-12]

By Fr. Daniel Bara S.J.

Just about a couple of months ago, the combined team of experts from China and Nepal announced that the Everest stands tall at 8848.86 m above the MSL. They were keen on ascertaining the height of the Mt Everest. At the same time there are some who are enchanted by its beauty. There are others who take pride in having achieved the feats of having scaled its height once, twice, some with oxygen masks/cylinders, and some others without them. There are still others who describe it as the roof of the world! Yes, although the physical reality of the Mt Everest is just one, yet its perceptions are aplenty. This is because every human person perceives the events or the physical realities of the world from his/her own perspective. It is something like wearing glasses of different colours. In the world today, each one of us is wearing a differently coloured glass and depending on the colour of the glass we are wearing the realities of the world would appear to us to be different; if my glass is black then everything outside would appear black to me, if green then green and so on.

From our school science we are familiar with the story of Newton and the falling apple or Archimedes and the bath tub. Apples indeed fell before Newton and they would continue to fall in the future. Likewise, prior to Archimedes millions of people had their bath in the bath tub and many more would still continue to do so. Yet it was for Newton to discover the law of Gravitation in the event of the falling apple. Likewise it was for Archimedes to discover the Principle of Buoyancy. These were so because they perceived realities beyond the mere events; they were able to see the ordinary events in an extraordinary manner and hence came those Eureka moments. The following lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning would illustrate this contention:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

At the birth of Jesus, we are told of the rising of a bright star but only the shepherds recognized the “glory of the Lord” as it shone around them; likewise only the Magi recognized the birth of the “Infant King of the Jews” in the rising of that bright star. The birth of Jesus brought good news to the shepherds and the Magi, whereas “King Herod and all with him in Jerusalem” were frightened! The shepherds and the Magi went to pay their homage to the newborn King whereas King Herod intended to kill Him. One reality and two opposite reactions!!

Today we celebrate the Epiphany, the revelation of Jesus to the world. To those who are expectantly looking forward to God’s intervention in their lives for their salvation a messiah is being revealed; whereas for the people like “King Herod and all in Jerusalem”  is being revealed  a competitor and hence a threat. For, depending upon and in the manner of what or who is being revealed to us, we would conduct our lives. We would perceive the events and realities of the world accordingly; our thoughts and actions would be accordingly characterized; our concerns and preoccupations would be as per our perceptions of the realities of the world.

We, therefore, could ask ourselves a number of questions today and perhaps seek answers to them. While we continue to be under the spell of Covid-19 pandemic, how is Jesus being revealed to us believers and followers of Him today? Even as we continue to witness the wide spread violence, corruption and exploitation the world over, how is Jesus being revealed to us and to the world? To the victims of violence, injustices, hatred, exploitation, marginalization, discrimination and subjugation of one kind or the other, how is Jesus being revealed today?  Will the orphan and the homeless hear the Good news brought to them? As we heard in the first reading of today, will we experience the “glory of the Lord”; will above us appear the “glory of the Lord”? Further, as in today’s second reading, will the “pagans share the same inheritance” as the believers?  Following the Magi, will we rise and follow the bright star?

Moses was able to recognize Yahweh in the burning bush only after he had removed his shoes! There are numerous burning bushes even today.  Let us, therefore, take off our shoes so as to be able to see God in the burning bush, perceive and recognize the earth itself as being crammed with God so that we are not counted among those who sit around and pluck blackberries. Having thus recognized Jesus as He is being revealed to us today we need to respond to Him.  While speaking of responses let us not forget that God does not appreciate the lukewarm response ( Rev 3:15 – 16). We are called to exhibit responses that are either hot or cold, not lukewarm.  A decisive response to the world realities is being expected from us. A fence-sitter’s response therefore is clearly not expected from those who follow Christ’s teachings. Nor are we expected to exhibit evasive responses like those of the Pharisees when counter questioned by Jesus, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” After having discussed it with one another, they answered, “We do not know” (Mt 21:24-27). That was a very safe answer without taking any risk or responsibility. Our reading of the passage tells us that they did know the right answer. Nor are our actions ought to be like that of Pilot ( Jn 18:33-39). Even though he knew for certain that Jesus was innocent and was being accused falsely, he did not release Him, an action which was well within his power.

May the Lord reveal Himself to us today anew such that we may perceive ourselves as people being missioned by Him (Lk 4:18-19); such that we may live and act in line with the Mt 25:31-46.!