EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD
The English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, was an atheist. He used to make fun of believers saying they had no imagination, and that they were too scared to consider the possibility of the world without God. When he was asked what is, after he died, he met the Lord. What would he say to him? Russell replied, "I would ask him: why did you not give me enough evidence?"
Today's feast is about the evidence provided by God. Epiphany means manifestation. God manifests to the world his saving presence in Jesus. God is not simply an ineffable mystery, inaccessible to human beings. God's very nature is to communicate him. He reveals himself through creation; that is how the wise men follow the star. God speaks and his word is reveal in scriptures; that is why the religious leaders consulted them to find out where he would be born. Finally, as if he could no longer contain himself in heaven, God comes down, assuming the form of a baby in a little town called Bethlehem. Here we see God taking the initiative, God seeking out in searching of His people. God wanted to share our humanity, to experience with us the joy and pain of being human.
But the epiphany tells us more. It tells us that God is for everyone. The God whose sun shines on the good and the bad and whose rain fall on the just and the unjust, loves the whole world and therefore he sends his Son. He did not come just for a chosen race. He came for the whole human race. This is the message of all the reading today. In the first reading, we hear Isaiah prophesies that Jerusalem will be restored. It will become a gathering place not only for the Jews who are scattered but also for all the peoples of the world. The glory of the Lord will shone upon Jerusalem for everyone, for the people who come from afar. This is the hope expressed in the responsorial psalm: "Lord, every nation on earth will adore you." In the second reading, Paul also speaks of the inclusive nature of God's saving plan. "In Christ Jesus the Gentiles are now coheirs with the Jews, members of the same body and sharers of the promise." This is also the revolutionary statement of Mathew in His gospel. The Jews, the chosen ones rejected the Messiah. The foreigners, the gentiles, the strangers, recognized and worshipped him. The mysterious wise men are a symbol of all of us who have come to the knowledge of the truth revealed in Christ Jesus.
The epiphany is about the light coming into the whole world. It explains why the Church is missionary by nature; why it exist only to spread the light. It tells us in the words of Paul to Timothy: God wills all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. God chose us to be instruments of that light.
Several years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional salves convention in Toronto. They assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday's supper.
On thing led to another and their meeting ran overtime so the men had to race to the airport, tickets in hand. As they barged through the terminal, one man inadvertently kicked over a table supporting a basket of apples. Without stopping they all reached the plane in time and boarded it with a sigh of relief. All but one. He paused, got in touch with his feelings, and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple-stand had been overturned. He waved goodbye to his compassions and returned to the terminal. He was glad he did. The ten year-old girl was blind.
The salesman gathered up the apples and noticed that several of them were battered and bruised. He reached into his wallet and said to the girl. "Here, please take this ten dollars for the damage we did. I hope it didn't spoil your day."
As the salesman started to walk away the bewildered girl called out to him, "Are you Jesus,"
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is in the evidence of our lives like that salesman that people will recognize Jesus, that people will see the epiphany, the manifestation of God. Each and everyone of us are called to be the light for others in our own circumstances and state of life.
The Eucharist is another epiphany. God gathers us together, reveals himself in the Scriptures and comes in the form of bread and wine for all of us regardless the difference colour of our skin, the differences of our social status, the differences of our age. On this wonderful feast and at every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, may we recognize God's presence, bow down and worship and make a gift of our lives to him. May our communion with him help to make each one of us an epiphany, a saving manifestation of the God who comes among us.
Rev. Pham Hong Chuong