Solemnity of the Epiphany
January 3, 2016
If there is one thing we can learn from this Sunday’s Solemnity of the Epiphany, it is that God frequently acts in a surprising way, in the Scriptures, in the stories of the Holy Family and in our lives as well. At every turn we find the Holy Family surprised and astonished by God's actions in their lives.
While following their miraculous star, all these “wise men” knew was that they would find a king and brought gifts accordingly. One can only wonder what must have gone through their minds when the king that they sought turned out to be a helpless baby whose family was of no account. Yet they had enough faith to give this baby very precious gifts and to do him homage!
No doubt the Holy Family were equally astonished to find messengers of such importance seeking out their child. Of course, his parents knew who Jesus was, but they must have been continually surprised by the variety of people that God let in on the great secret of Jesus! The Holy Family had already seen that God revealed himself deeply to humble shepherds by means of angels – shepherds coming as they did from the lowest cast of society. Now we find other emissaries, pagans, from the highest ranks of society also having had the truth revealed to them. What is even more astonishing is that we see no evidence of rabbis or other local religious leaders being invited into this mystery at this time.
The Lord often works in surprising ways in our lives as well. For example, it can happen that the very people that we dismiss as of little or no importance, those we pass along the way, those we do not know or are or of another station in life than ourselves, like the shepherds, that God will use to speak profoundly to us if we are listening. How we treat such people is a barometer of our faith, for Christ was once like this, a humble baby of seemingly no importance. Equally he can use those of high station, like the wise men, to work powerfully and surprisingly.
Am I an emissary for Christ in this world? Whether I am poor like the shepherds or wealthy like the kings, God can make use of me. Both the shepherds of Bethlehem and the kings of the Epiphany equally represent Christ – who of course was fabulously wealthy but also assumed deep poverty – not as a disguise but in reality as a human being. He also wishes to use you and me as his emissaries in the world in both our poverty and in our wealth. Our wealth is represented by the talents that we've been given like gold, frankincense and myrrh; while our sin and that which we lack Jesus will make use of as well, for he wishes to forgive us and fill our very poverty with his own divine wealth, graces and the sacraments which we then can give to others through our faithful witness, courageous actions and kind deeds.