Monday, January 4, 2016

Having an Epiphany


Murillo's Magi
There are all kinds of predictions for the new year of 2016.

In fact, the Bible is full of predictions.

The Word of God from Isaiah takes us back to the 6th century before Jesus. The author predicts a divine light will emanate from this new Jerusalem and all people, Jews as well as non-Jews, will acknowledge and walk by this light.

Christians of course see Jesus as this light who illumines darkness, who shows human beings the ultimate purpose of life: to be in relationship with God, to manifest the glory or presence of God in our everyday attitudes and behaviors.

The letter of Paul to the Christian community in Ephesus, Turkey, speaks about our future: all of us are coheirs to God’s promise of eternal life, co-workers in bringing about the kingdom of God, a kingdom of truth and justice and peace and freedom.

And in the Gospel according to Matthew, we have all the ingredients of a great mystery novel:  exotic visitors, a wicked king, court intrigue, a mysterious star, precious gifts and a new child, the Word made flesh. 

Sunday we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, the showing of the child Jesus to the magi: gentiles, non-Jews, who came from far, far away, guided by a mysterious star and a sudden illumination of wisdom, to pay homage to this Jewish child named Jesus.  Yes, Jesus is for all people.

To “have an epiphany” – a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being -- is a popular phrase.

I was with family in New York last week and we talked about the Epiphany. My sister commented: If the wise men had been wise women, they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, and made a casserole and brought practical gifts.

I like the significance of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold can symbolize royalty (the coin of this Child’s heavenly realm are compassion, forgiveness and peace); Frankincense with its fragrance and medicinal magic can bring healing (and this Child came to heal our wounds and bridge the chasm that separate us from God and one another); and myrrh or ointment can symbolize a burial embalmment (through his death/resurrection, Jesus eventually made us co-heirs to God’s promise of eternal life).
 The early Christian community named him the Messiah, the anointed one. Jesus taught that God is our Father, a compassionate God, always near us at the start of each day to guide us.

So as we begin this new year, I invite all of us to experience an epiphany: to ask Christ to grace us anew. Let us grow ever more deeply in our relationship with God and manifest ever more clearly the glory of God in our everyday attitudes and behaviors.

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