January 3, 2024 at 10:14 a.m.

The 2024 Epiphany

With the coming of the Savior, the obvious question is: Are we like King Herod or the Magi?
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.

By Father Anthony Barratt | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

It is a strange thing that many people think that Christmas is over on the 25th of December. True, this date marks Christmas Day, but, as the famous song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” puts it, it is the first (not the last day) of Christmas. The Christmas decorations and the Christmas jingles in stores may have long gone, but we continue to celebrate the great season of Christmas for several weeks after Christmas Day. During the season, we have had many great feast days and events: St. Stephen (the first martyr), St. John (the great Gospel writer), the Holy Innocents (slain by King Herod in a fit of fear and jealousy) and, of course, New Year’s Day or as it is in our calendar, the Motherhood of Mary (“mother” is, in fact, the oldest title given to our Blessed Mother).

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” 

— Isaiah 60:1-6

This weekend our festivities continue as we celebrate “the Epiphany” of the Lord. This strange word comes from ancient Greek and it really means the appearing or the showing forth of something or someone. So, this weekend, we commemorate the epiphany or the manifestation of Jesus. Not only this, but we also mark the revealing of Jesus to the nations. Jesus Christ is the universal savior: for all times and all places. In our First Reading, the prophet Isaiah, writing many centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, predicts this coming. Not only that, people will come from afar to see this savior and to experience the light of Christ. The prophet sings of the great joy that this coming will bring: our hearts will (literally) palpitate and overflow! Our psalm takes up this message as we respond, “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”

In the Gospel, this coming of the Savior of the nations is powerfully symbolized and realized in the coming of the three kings or “Magi.” They have traveled a long distance from foreign lands and brought their gifts in homage. The gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh) indicate who Jesus is and what he has come to do. The well-known hymn, “We Three Kings” explains all this to us:

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain

Gold I bring to crown Him again

King for ever, ceasing never

Over us all to reign

Frankincense to offer have I

Incense owns a Deity nigh

Prayer and praising, all men raising

Worship Him, God most high

Myrrh is mine

Its bitter perfume breathes

A life of gathering gloom

Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying

Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

The coming of the Savior, though, poses a choice of how to react. How sad it is that King Herod is unable to see the beautiful truth of what is happening. It would have changed his life and his reign for the better. However, he is full of fear and, perhaps, jealousy or anger. Instead of welcoming the “light of the nations,” he seeks to snuff out this light. By contrast, we see the choice and reaction of the Magi: they are filled with joy and they bow down to adore and to give homage. We can imagine them making that long and arduous journey back to their homelands as changed men. The obvious question or challenge here is: Are we like King Herod or the Magi? How do we react? What choice have we made?

Finally, we realize that today and every day, God manifests Himself and His love to us in many ways: in His Word, in the Eucharist and the sacraments, through prayer and religious experiences that we may have had, and through people and events each and every day. Not only this: we are called to bring that gift of love to others. Yes, we are disciples, but we are also called to be disciple-makers. We are to be the revelation or epiphany of Jesus to all those whom we meet. It will not be with gifts of gold, frankincense or myrrh (well, probably not!) but instead through our time, our words and our actions. All these can show forth and manifest the love of God. These often small things can be like a shining star that guides and helps others to discover the very presence of God in their lives. 

As our New Year has begun, perhaps we can resolve to find ways to show forth that love of God that we have experienced and that we celebrate to others. As one of the dismissals at the end of Mass says: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life!”


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