My dear brothers and sisters, our Catholic faith has been keeping us busy over this last week and a half. During the last ten days we have celebrated four great Feast Days of our faith in Jesus Christ. We have gathered as the Church to celebrate the Birth of Jesus which gave us the assurance that in every aspect of our life, Jesus is God-with-us. We are never left alone or abandoned.
Last Sunday was the Feast of the Holy Family emphasizing that our families are important to God and blessed by God. On January 1, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God assured us that we too are God’s children who dare to call God our “Father.” And today we recall again the story of the Wise Men who journeyed from the East, from pagan lands, to find the “child who had been born king of the Jews.”
This Feast Day is called “The Epiphany of the Lord.” The word Epiphany means a “manifestation.” Did you ever find that you were puzzling about something you couldn’t quite figure out? You kept trying and trying and then suddenly, one day, boom! There it was. Everything suddenly became clear. You would say: “I just had an epiphany.”
We don’t get a lot of big epiphanies in life. Sometimes we do get an epiphany and it can change our lives. Sometimes it opens up the future to us and we find a direction for our life, sometimes it marks a religious conversion.
Most of our epiphanies are much smaller, and they manifest to us truths about ourselves, or our lives, or about who God is for us, and how God is truly working in our lives. Epiphanies help us at times to get beyond the questions like “Why am I here? Where is my life going? I feel like I should be doing something but I don’t know what. And so on.
When we get in situations like these we can think about the wise men from the East who came in search of a king and were rewarded with a surprise which changed their lives. They went to the Royal Court in Jerusalem thinking that that would be where they would find a new born king of the Jews. The Royal Court of King Herod in Jerusalem was not a nice place, they discovered. The king there ruled by violence and fear, as do many world leaders even today. It was a place of intrigue and oppression. It was a kingdom of this world.
We all live in the kingdom of this world. We are all ruled by people who have accumulated power, even in the great democracy that we are blessed to have here in Canada. Many still struggle to find enough money to live with dignity. We worry about our children and the danger of the drug culture that surrounds us. We deal with addictions and poor health and see that many fear the future and how they will die. They grasp at the idea of euthanasia with the hope that they might control death. Many people are terribly lonely. This is the darkness.
The prophet Isaiah affirmed this: "For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples.” We understand this image and we all know what it means for each of our own lives. We all have darkness there. But Isaiah says to us as we deal with our own darkness: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you! … The Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Words spoken of Jesus, but words that have meaning for us.
The wise men from the East left the darkness of King Herod’s Court and followed the bright light of the star that had led them and they found, not a royal prince living in splendor, but the child Jesus with his mother Mary. This was the child who many years later would say to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.’
Jesus kingdom was not the kingdom of Herod, nor of the Emperor of Rome, rather Jesus’ kingdom is the Kingdom of God. And where is that kingdom? It is found in the person of the child before whom the Wise Men knelt and offered their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Epiphany is that the kingdom of God, the kingdom of light and brightness is offered to all people, to everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter whether you have a lot of money or hardly any money at all. It doesn’t matter whether you have a lot of power or no power at all. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old or sick or healthy, brilliant and intelligent or just ordinary and maybe struggling. It doesn’t matter whether your life is in order or in upset, confusion and chaos. Whoever YOU are, you are invited to follow the star of your faith and enter into this new kingdom of brightness and light which is found in the person of Jesus.
When we have to deal with the powers of this world, the Epiphany of our Lord reminds us that Jesus gives us an alternate way of living. A different way of living that offers us what the kingdoms of this world cannot give us: a true Saviour who invites us to walk with him on our journey through life and follow a different road from that of the kingdoms of this world; a road which follows the path of hope and meaning and strength on our journey and which leads to fullness of life, brightness and joy forever.