My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Today as Christians we also remember Epiphany but this one is with the capital E.
We should still remember what brought the shepherds to the manger. It was what the angels proclaimed to them. What brought the wise men to the manger? They didn’t see any angels but still they saw something. It was the star. Many people have tried to explain this phenomenon. The great conjunction of Saturn and Jupitar which occurred just before Christmas last year, when the two planets got so close to each other that in the sky they looked like one shining celestial body, was suggested to be the star which the Wise Men observed when Jesus was born. However the story of the Wise Men is not just about the star but it is about something mysterious which happened in their souls when they saw the star in the sky. Before they set their eyes on the Baby Jesus they had their Epiphany back home somewhere in the East, which brought together what they studied in the ancient traditions, what they discussed among themselves and what they eventually saw in the sky. Their Epiphany moment was like that about music I mentioned before: ‘an epiphany occurs where the words and music ‘speak to you,’ becoming something more than the sum of their parts’.
While they were still home, far away from Bethlehem, Jesus Christ by his divine grace enlightened them to recognise the unfolding of God’s mighty works. Before the Apostles and other missionaries were to go out to proclaim the Good News, and by God’s grace to bring people to faith in Jesus, the bright star did it for the Wise Men. The angels reached out to the shepherds who were Jews. The grace was given to the shepherds to search for Jesus. It was the shepherds’ Epiphany. The bright stars reached out to the Wise Men, the pagans, like us who aren’t from the People of Israel. The grace was given to the Wise Men to search for Jesus. It was the Wise Men’s Epiphany. In the Church we treasure this Epiphany so close to our hearts because it began bringing non-Jews to the family of believers. Thank God for that. Where would we be today if God had kept the Good News of Jesus only to the Jewish People?
A couple of weeks ago I read an interview with an actor who was asked why he left the Church. His answer was: ‘I think because I have never had the grace of believing.’ I respect and admire his frank confession. I am also convinced that it can explain something about our loved ones who don’t worship with us anymore. We may be very pious, religious and holy but still it doesn’t give us control over God’s grace. We need to humbly pray for it, for ourselves and for others. Grace of faith is not a gift we deserve or own but it is the gift we recognise as the one we need. When we do so it is also our Epiphany, our sacred moment when God reveals himself to us and gives us his grace to set out on the journey of faith. The Wise Men were on such a journey but as we could hear in the Gospel King Herod and his Royal Court were not impressed. The excitement and commitment of the Wise Men didn’t inspire them. Does it mean that the Wise Men were wrong because Herod and his people didn’t accept it? Herod and his people missed on the joy, peace and hope which faith gives.
I don’t expect you to remember those two definitions I told you at the beginning but I do hope and pray that as believers you may hold fast to the grace of faith you have because carrying in your soul the memory of your Epiphany, and living your life accordingly, can be the moment of Epiphany for other people like that actor. It means that his frank confession: ‘I have never had the grace of believing’ can eventually turn into a joyful confession: ‘I believe in One God…