St Augustine of Canterbury Parish
“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?
For we observed his star at its rising,
and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:2)
Epiphany (like Annunciation and Christmas) is one of the mysteries of the incarnation of
Jesus Christ (see Catechism of the Catholic Church (1171). “The Epiphany is the
manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world. The
great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the
East… In the magi, representatives of the neighbouring pagan religions, the Gospel sees
the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the
Incarnation. The magi's coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the
Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one
who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and
worship him as Son of God and Saviour of the world only by turning towards the [Lord]
and receiving from [him] the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The
Epiphany shows that ‘the full number of the nations’ now takes its ‘place in the family of
the patriarchs’, and is made ‘worthy of the heritage of Israel” (see Catechism of the
Catholic Church, 525).
God is so generous to reveal his saving plan through the manifestation of Jesus in order to
lead and encourage humanity:
“In the time of King Herod,
after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking,
Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?
For we observed his star at its rising,
and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
By revealing the birth of Jesus to the wise men from the East, God shows that no one is
excluded from his plan of salvation. If God does not exclude us from saving us, then we
should not exclude ourselves from being saved by the Lord. If God does not exclude
anyone from being saved, then no one should exclude himself/herself from the
manifestation of Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour of the Lord. If God does not exclude any
one from the good plans to save humanity, then humanity should not deny or deprive
himself/herself from the good plans of God.
With the Epiphany, God invites all nations to observe and follow the rising star of Jesus
in order to “pay him homage”:
“When they had heard the king, they set out;
and there, ahead of them,
went the star that they had seen at its rising,
until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw that the star had stopped,
they were overwhelmed with joy.
On entering the house,
they saw the child with Mary his mother;
and they knelt down and paid him homage.
Then, opening their treasure chests,
they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:9-11)
Epiphany is a celebration that takes away and dispels apathy and loss of purpose because
it encourages us to follow the rising star in order to be missionary disciples of his saving
plans. Given that God gave to humanity his Son Jesus Christ, humanity too should give
back by offering the best gift to him as expressed in the gift of gold to indicate his
kingship (saving power), frankincense to express his sanctifying prayers (messianic role),
and myrrh to echo his immortality (eternal life). Therefore, humanity cannot offer to God
any gift lower than gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Epiphany is an expression of a bold leap and effort of God to reveal Jesus, Messiah of
Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world. Therefore, the world cannot stay in fear and
anxiety because the saving plans of the Lord are the best:
“When King Herod heard this, he was frightened,
and all Jerusalem with him;
and calling together
all the chief priests and scribes of the people,
he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea;
for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men
and learned from them the exact time
when the star had appeared.
Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying,
‘Go and search diligently for the child;
and when you have found him,
bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’” (Matthew 2:3-8)
Epiphany shows us that when there is a roadblock at a moment in life, God always direct
us to another path: “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left
for their own country by another road” (Matthew 2:12). We can count on God to provide
a rising star to lead us towards another road. Epiphany also encourages us along the road
to protect the Jesus Christ and his saving works that God entrusts into the hands and life
of every human being in all nations. Each human person should carry out this mission of
Epiphany with great joy: “When they saw that the star had stopped, they were
overwhelmed with joy” (Matthew 2:10).
The Epiphany is also a mystery of how God inaugurates a new time when all nations are
invited to be fellow heirs of the promise of Jesus Christ:
“Surely you have already heard
of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you,
and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
In former generations
this mystery was not made known to humanity
as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets
by the Spirit:
that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs,
members of the same body,
and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3.2-3a, 5-6)
God has taken a bold step to include all nations in his saving plan. Therefore, each human
person is encouraged to arise and shine as each person follows the rising star:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but 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.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” (Isaiah 60.1-6)
Let us protect the word and image of Jesus, Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of
the world as we celebrate Epiphany. Let us offer to God adoration as we celebrate the
great feast of Epiphany in a similar way that the wise men (magi) from the East did. Like
the magi, representatives of the neighbouring pagan religions, let us be representatives of
the fruits of the Gospel among all nations.