Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Bill Wilson considered himself a loser. He had failed as a stockbroker. He had failed to quit drinking. A friend advised him to turn his life over to serving God. One night, in utter desperation, he cried out, “If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything. Anything!” Immediately a white light illuminated his hospital room. Wilson experienced an epiphany in which God’s presence was shown to him. He never again touched alcohol and he went on to help found Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill Wilson spent the rest of his life sharing the good news of his enlightenment.
At the Vigil Mass:
Entrance Antiphon: Bar 5:5—“Arise, Jerusalem, and look to the East and see your children gathering from the rising to the setting of the sun.”
First Reading: Is 60:1-6 — “The glory of the Lord shines upon you.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13 — “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”
Second Reading: Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 — “Now it has been revealed that the Gentiles are coheirs of the promise.”
Alleluia: Mt 2:2 — “We saw His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.”
Gospel: Mt 2:1-12 — “We saw His star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
Communion Antiphon: Rev 21:23 — “The brightness of God illumined the holy city Jerusalem, and the nations will walk by its light.”
At the Mass during the Day:
At the Mass during the Day, the Liturgy of the Word is the same as at the Vigil Mass. The only exceptions are below:
Entrance Antiphon: Mal 3:1; 1 Chr 29:12—“Behold the Lord, the Mighty One, has come; and kingship is in His grasp, and power and dominion.”
Communion Antiphon: Mt 2:2 — “We saw His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.”
Today’s Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the showing forth or the manifestation of the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, and successor of King David to the Gentiles ... represented by the Magi. Following a star in the darkness of night, the Magi came from a foreign land to honor Him. These three seekers from the East, unlike Herod and his court, recognized the humble Christ Child as a true king, worthy of the royal gifts they had brought Him. They returned to their distant home “by another road,” signifying that their lives were completely changed by the God who had shown Himself to them.
As Isaiah states in the first reading, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come.” When the three wise men left their native land, they had no idea where the star might lead them. They were willing to endure whatever discomforts or dangers their journey into foreign territory might entail. They had seen the light. And they would do anything to follow it. It was common in that era for the birth of a ruler to be signified by the appearance of a new star. Herod feared this prophesied king of the Jews and plotted to destroy him. He chose to remain in darkness. But we recognize that our light has come. We arise today and shine in the presence of Jesus, the Light of the World. We strive to be His epiphany for others by communicating His unconditional love by what we say, by what we do, and by how we act towards others.
The prophet Isaiah continues “Then you shall be radiant at what you see ... your heart shall throb and overflow ...” When Mary and Joseph greeted the three visitors, they knew that the elaborately attired trio were not fellow Jews. However, they welcomed the Gentiles and, like proud parents everywhere, held out their newborn Child to be admired and praised. Recognizing that they had found the one they were looking for, the men from the East presented Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts may be seen as signifying Jesus’ kingship (the gold) ... His priesthood (the frankincense) ... and His sacrificial death (the myrrh). Maybe we were not there to see Emmanuel in the flesh over 2,000 years ago; but we do see Him in the body of Christ gathered here today, in the faces of our children and parents ... in the presence of those who have come from afar ... especially those who are different from us … but have been drawn here by the same Light. We see the blessed Child in each other and we should radiate our joy.
“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come.” When Bill Wilson had his epiphany that dark and desperate night, he said that he turned his life over to the “Father of Light.” Like the three wise men, he went home “by a different road.” Those who have seen the light become manifestations of the Lord for others. They are compelled to share the gift of faith with the stranger, the seeker, the lost and the lonely, the outsider, the alien, the unbeliever and the unaware. In his beautiful painting, “The Nativity,” Georges de la Tour depicts Mary and Joseph with three guests hovering over the Holy Infant. Their faces beam in the candle light. And the Baby shines like a star. The question to ask yourselves today and this week is this ... Are you ready to do anything for him?
We are called to draw others into the light by sharing our own epiphanies … by sharing our own experiences of how God has shown forth in our lives.
As we prepare to share the Body and Blood of Christ consider this line from an old Christmas carol: “If in your heart you make a manger for His birth, then God will once again become a child on earth.”