My Sisters and Brothers! Today we are celebrating one of the most ancient feasts of the Church – the Epiphany of the Lord. Before Christmas was introduced into the Liturgy the Church had the Epiphany. Epiphany means manifestation or striking appearance. The essence of this feast is that God wanted to be found. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem heavens didn’t keep it secret but the angels first brought the shepherds to the manger with the Son of God in it, and today we recall the star which guided the Wise Men to the Newborn. Our God wanted to be part of our human world and he also wanted us to know that.
In the Gospel of St Matthew we read that when the Magi came to the stable where Jesus was “they were filled with delight”. I have also searched some other translations which say that: “When Magi saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” or “The sight of the star filled them with indescribable joy” or “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” or “When they saw the star they rejoiced with a surpassingly great joy.” I am bringing it up so that we can get what was happening with the Wise Men at the end of t heir journey. They were overjoyed and I am sure that there are no words that can describe their joy but their joy wasn’t coming from the happy ending of their travelling. There is a saying in the spiritual life that joy is the scent of God, that joy gives away the presence of God. The Wise Men from the Gospel of this Mass smelled God, they were joyful. That’s why I can see profound sense of wishing each other joyful, happy and merry Christmas because can we wish a person anything better than an encounter with the Most Holy God? When we say Merry Christmas we recall the event with the Wise Men, their joy beyond words and we wish that the person could get so close to Jesus at Christmas that Jesus’ scent – joy could be “smelled” by the person.
One of the three gifts offered by the Magi was frankincense. At that time it was more expensive than gold. It was an aromatic gum resin obtained from various trees. It looked like small pieces of amber. Although it is possible to cut trees to force them to produce the resin it was considered a cheap product. The real thing, the expensive one was the resin obtained from the natural cracks that appeared on the tree. People were convinced that richness of fragrance was coming from the tree giving voluntarily its juices. Its beautiful fragrance had the ability to cheer up people. However the Magi didn’t need to burn the frankincense they had with them to find joy, they smelled joy when they were approaching the stable in Bethlehem. They knew that there was no frankincense in the world that could fill them with greater joy that the one they experienced there. They left Jesus their frankincense to acknowledge him as God, they didn’t it for themselves.
My Dear Friends! How often we look for joy but it is only like the smoke of the incense passing very quickly. We look for joy in people we want to possess and control. We look for joy in stuff we surround ourselves with. We look for joy in the skills and knowledge of this world. But it is passing. We need more and more to surround ourselves with joy but the lasting joy comes only from Jesus. Living close to him, surrendering to Him our will, heart and soul gives us that priceless joy that he Wise Men “smelled” as they were approaching the Baby Jesus. Jesus is giving us his grace, his Holy Spirit voluntarily, He isn’t forced; He wants to give these gifts to us. That’s why the richness and intensity of the joy we find when we approach Him with faith, hope and love is priceless.
As a Christian I want again to wish you and your loved ones Merry Christmas. You know what I mean, don’t you?