Epiphany is at once a celebration of Christ and a challenge for the church. By virtue of the reality ofChrist, manifested ...
defeated admiral was brought aboard Nelson’s flagship and on to Nelson’s quarter-deck. KnowingNelson’s reputation for cour...
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Epiphany is at once a celebration of christ and a challenge for the church epiphany

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Epiphany is at once a celebration of christ and a challenge for the church epiphany

  1. 1. Epiphany is at once a celebration of Christ and a challenge for the church. By virtue of the reality ofChrist, manifested as light and life for the world, we who belong to Christ are to live lives that are similarmanifestations of light and life. Moreover, the challenge of Epiphany also requires that we be willing tosee, hear, touch and attend to the presence of God made manifest in predictable places and people aswell as in those people and places where it is least expected. The concentric circles of ‘epiphanybusiness” reminds us all of us together, with our differences and diversities, our various languages,cultures, customs and traditions are to bring a multi-faceted luminosity to a world darkened by humansin. REFLECTIONS ON THE EPIPHANY OF JESUS TO THE GENTILES Reflection for Epiphany, Cycle CThe following are three reflections on today’s beautiful feast in which the church celebrates themanifestation of Jesus to the Gentile world symbolized by the presence of the three wise men.The first piece is by the late Scottish biblical scholar, William Barclay. In his commentary on Matthew’sgospel, he shares with us some of the legends that grew up around the story of the Magi. Barclay writes:So the wise men found their way to Bethlehem. We need not think that the star literally moved like a guideacross the sky. There is poetry here, and we must not turn lovely poetry into crude and lifeless prose. Butover Bethlehem the star was shining. There is a lovely legend which tells how the star, its work ofguidance completed, fell into the well at Bethlehem, and that it is still there and can still be seensometimes by those whose hearts are pure.Later legends have been busy with the wise men. In the early days, Eastern tradition said that there weretwelve of them. But now the tradition that there were three is almost universal. The New Testament doesnot say that there were three, but the idea that there were three no doubt arose from the threefold giftwhich they brought.Later legend made them kings. And still later, legend gave them names, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.Still later, legend assigned to each a personal description, and distinguished the gift which each of themgave to Jesus. Melchior was an old man, grey haired, and with a long beard, and it was he who broughtthe gift of gold. Caspar was young and beardless, and ruddy in countenance, and it was he who broughtthe gift of frankincense. Balthasar was swarthy, with the beard newly grown upon him, and it was he whobrought the gift of myrrh.From the early times, people have seen a peculiar fitness in the gifts the wise men brought. They haveseen in each gift something which specially matched some characteristic of Jesus and his work.Gold is the gift for a king. Seneca tells us that in Parthia it was the custom that no one could everapproach the king without a gift. And gold, the king of metals, is the fit gift for a king of people.So then Jesus was “the Man born to be King.” But he was to reign, not by force, but by love; and he wasto rule over peoples’ hearts, not from a throne, but from a Cross.We do well to remember that Jesus Christ is King. We can never meet Jesus on an equality. We mustalways meet him on terms of complete submission. Nelson, the great admiral, always treated hisvanquished opponents with the greatest kindness and courtesy. After on e of his naval victories, the 1
  2. 2. defeated admiral was brought aboard Nelson’s flagship and on to Nelson’s quarter-deck. KnowingNelson’s reputation for courtesy, and thinking to trade upon it, he advanced across the quarter-deck withhand outstretched as if he was advancing to shake hands with an equal. Nelson’s hand remained by hisside. “Your sword first,” he said, “and then your hand.” Before we must be friends with Christ, we mustsubmit to Christ.Frankincense is the gift for a priest. It was in the Temple worship and at the Temple sacrifices that thesweet perfume of frankincense was used. The function of a priest is to open the way to God for people.The Latin word for priest is pontifex, which means a bridge-builder. The priest is the man who builds abridge between people and God. That is what Jesus did. He opened the way to God; he made it possiblefor people to enter into the very presence of God.Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die. Myrrh was used to embalm the bodies of the dead.Jesus came into the world to die. Holman Hunt has a famous picture of Jesus. It shows Jesus at the doorof the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. He is still only a boy and has come to the door to stretch his limbswhich had grown cramped over the bench. He stands there in the doorway with arms outstretched, andbehind him, on the wall, the setting sun throws his shadow, and it is the shadow of a cross. In thebackground there stands Mary, and as she sees that shadow there is the fear of coming tragedy in hereyes. Jesus came into the world to live for people, and in the end, to die for them. He came to give peoplehis life and his death. Gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, myrrh for on who was to die—these werethe gifts of the wise men and, even at the cradle of Christ, they foretold that he was to be the true King,the perfect High Priest, and in the end the supreme Savior of people.When Two Wisdoms CollideThe following reflection on today’s feast is by Fr. Denis McBride, C.S.s.R.:Matthew shows how the two wisdoms collide: the wisdom of the religious institution and the wisdom ofthe pagan strangers. Writing at a time when many non-Jews, Gentiles, were entering the Christiancommunity, while many Jews had rejected the message of the Gospel, Matthew demonstrates in the storyof the magi that Jesus comes not only for the Jewish race, but for the human race. In the second reading,Paul proclaims the universal appeal of God’s revelation in Jesus; “it means that pagans now share thesame inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them,in Christ Jesus, through the Gospel.”Let us learn from the magi and be brave. Let us put the same certainty in our knowledge of heavenlythings and in our faith that they did. Let us make the long journey with confidence that we will indeedfind Jesus, and let us cast aside our love for approval or for material things that get in the way. 2

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