My friends, this feast officially marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, and it officially came on Friday of this past week. Our Church wisely, I believe, usually moves significant feasts to Sundays so as us common folk don’t miss their significance, being that most of “the faithful” don’t attend Mass on a weekday, as a rule. So, we might ask, what is so special about the Feast of the Epiphany so as to raise it to the importance of a Sunday? Sit back and I will tell you!
The word, “epiphany” comes from the Greek, meaning, “manifestation.” In everyday parlance, we might say, “Epiphany,” or as most of us think of this feast, “The Coming of the Three Kings,” is an “aha” moment. Further, we might say, “aha” moments are about when, “we finally get it!” But we can leave that idea for a moment and see what the Scriptures tell us.
Isaiah gives us the familiar words that we hear each year at this time, “Arise, shine, your light has come!” We all know from our earliest religious training that the “light” Isaiah speaks of, is our brother and companion for our human journey, Jesus, who became the “Christ” for all believers—across the board. It is important for us the understand that “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, but a concept much bigger for a God who includes us all, beyond religion.
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, basically tells them the very message that we at All Are One believe, and proclaim by our very name, that, “everyone is welcome!” Paul’s exact words are, “the Gentiles are heirs, as are we!”
The gospel from Matthew tells the story of three, apparently, “wise men,” who traveled a great distance and ultimately had an “aha” moment in the stable in Bethlehem. We don’t know by anything definite in the written Scriptures, why these men set out on such a journey, but we have to believe that they were people of faith, much like each of us as we say our own “yeses” to things that we don’t totally understand. Besides being astrologers, they may have also been students of Scripture in whatever ways holy texts were available at the time and from within, simply heard that, “they should arise.” They seemed too, to have a sense that, “manifestations in the heavens” (the Star) often had a counter part on earth (the birth of Jesus).
But, for whatever reason, they did arise and go, thinking perhaps, as we do today, “we need to check this out!” Earlier, I spoke of these wise men having an “aha” moment in the stable in Bethlehem—they went looking for a king and found one—only what they found, caused them to reconsider what “kingliness” is really all about. They found that a true king, queen, or leader shows that character not in the “who”—their lineage, but in the “how” they act in the world. What an “aha” moment this must have been for them!
In the first reading today from Isaiah the prophet, after encouraging the people to “arise,” gives them a second command, Scripture scholar, Diane Bergant says. That second command was to “shine,” or in other words, act upon what you have come to know. Prophetically, Isaiah gives us our marching words, “though night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples…
My friends, Jesus our light has come, has shown us the way—how we must act so as to dispel the “night” and the “darkness.” In this New Year, 2023, so new—so young, we only need listen to the news to agree that the “night” and the “darkness” haven’t yet been dispelled. Just as the Wise Men witnessed something so great, so astounding at the simple, lowly crib in Bethlehem, we too must, through our attention to Scripture and in our own personal prayer, discover that our life here is about so very many, “aha” moments if we can open our eyes and ears wide enough to recognize them. Some of the “aha” moments for me this past week are the following:
- The International Group of Roman Catholic Women Bishops, placed an ad in the New York Times decrying recent comments in the America magazine by Pope Francis, that basically, “the door to women’s ordination is closed.” We can applaud these women for acting on their well-formed consciences (something the Church tells us to do) to speak truth to a blatant lie formulated by men seeking power instead of love within our Church. Pope Francis needs an “aha” moment in this regard.
- The condition of a young, 24-year-old Buffalo Bills football player, by the name of, Damar Hamlin, is being watched and prayed for by many in our nation. This past week, during a game, he collapsed on the field suffering a cardiac arrest. He had to be resuscitated then and there and has been fighting for his life ever since. After several days of being totally sedated so that his body could mend, he is now making steady progress. My reason for mentioning him here is not because of his prowess on the field, but for his good work off the field, using his status and position to assist the lives of children who have less, as was once his case. Damar apparently had an “aha” moment on his way to fame.
- For nearly a week the new 118th Congress, have struggled to elect a new speaker. It has been contentious and has blocked the work of the people because a small, but significant number of the members have forgotten, if they ever knew, why the people sent them there in the first place. The group that was blocking action, while finally electing their speaker after 15 unprecedented votes, are, in my mind, still in need of a collective, “aha” moment in order to truly do the work of the people, going forward.
- This past week also marked the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I believe he was on the cusp of his “aha” moment during the years of the Second Vatican Council when he was known for his more liberal thinking with regard to proposed changes within the Church. Unfortunately, he got “lost in the weeds” in the shadow of the long pontificate of John Paul II.
My purpose here friends, is not to speak against others, but to remind us all that, being a Christian is no, as they say, “walk in the park.” Following Jesus will take the best we have to give—and no doubt, many “aha” moments throughout our lives.
So, as we officially close the Christmas Season with our liturgy here today, it would be good to spend some moments, “at the crib” in our personal lives, contemplating its true messages. Primarily, we “should get” the concept of our loving God wanting “to be one-with-us—wanting to be close. As we then, in future liturgies move through this new Church Year, let us strive to keep our eyes on the one, Jesus, our brother, for whom being a “Christian” is really all about! Each new Church Year calls us again to this one task and this one task alone—trying to emulate his life in our own.
We shouldn’t allow ourselves “to get lost in the weeds” as the holdouts in Congress demonstrated so well this past week, and as Pope Benedict XVI too, demonstrated in his papacy. We all, must keep going back to the source, our brother Jesus, trying to model our lives after his.
There are those in our Church, if they could have their way, would have us go back to pre-Vatican II times, to a time when much of Church life was pretty, “black and white”—do 1-2-3 and heaven would be assured. Sister Joan Chittister, a prophet in our times, is known for proclaiming— “we need to go back further” [past the rules and regulations] “to the memory of Jesus of Nazareth.” Now that would be a collective, “aha” moment! Amen? Amen!