The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” 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 have seen His star in the East, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord.” There is an old joke that some of you may have heard. A man hears only part of the Epiphany story. This part relates to just where the three Magi came from. “Wow,” says he, “they must have been coughing a lot and probably smelled like smoke.” “Why’s that?” asks a friend. “Because we were told that they came from a-far!” [a fire]. (It is true that the Old Testament says the Israelites in Exodus were led “by cloud by day and by fire at night.” But I think this is a bit different.) As with the Magi, the light from a divine star still leads us today to pay homage to Jesus. If you were lucky enough to see the star, it appeared on December 22nd. However, the gift we bring to Jesus, the gift He wants most from us, is our personal, loving relationship with Him. The shepherds pay Jesus a visit and then they go away. The Magi present their gifts and then, they, too, go away. We are to pay Jesus a visit, give Him our best gifts, and then take Jesus with us wherever we go. The arrival of the Magi and their gifts are explained in the New Testament. Saint Matthew’s Magi are astrologers. Many of them believed that a new star appeared at the birth of a new ruler. They gave gifts that seem very unusual to us, except maybe the first gift ... the one that has been coveted through the ages: gold, a natural gift fit for a king. This child was prophesied in Psalm 90 as “a mighty God [and] Lord, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 84 calls upon “Lord of hosts, my King and my God.” The other two gifts are frankincense (signifying divinity) and myrrh (signifying redemptive suffering). All of these gifts figure prominently in our salvation story. So what are our best gifts? ... What can we offer the Christ-Child? Well, maybe faith. Our faith is a most precious gift. As is clear in the Scriptures, faith is a gift that delights God. We Christians fully embrace the belief that “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light” (Matthew 4:16, quoting Isaiah 9:1). We believe this “great light” is Jesus, who takes the darkness out of our lives. God very much deserves our gratitude and our love. So perhaps, what about love of God and love of neighbor – neighbor of every creed and color – maybe love is the best and ultimate gift we can lay before the infant Jesus. Love of God and love of neighbor are essential – and yet nowhere as common as one might expect. This kind of love has been preached for 2,000 years, and we still have far to go. When will we be able to sing with full and pure hearts, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love”? Another might be not having false gods. That may sound like an easy gift to offer. Many people might seem to think this means not worshipping a golden calf. But think about it. The golden calf of today is whatever we prefer to the love of Christ. This includes power, prestige, money, sports, any extracurricular activity, addictions, possessions – and perhaps the hardest of all things: not to covet. When we recently sang, “O, come let us adore Him,” we must remember the emphasis is on Him ... our emphasis is on Christ – not the false gods we make such as a house like the rich neighbors across the street, a job like the boss’s, or the citizen of the year award that we never seem to win. And what about the gift of our lives. Lives devoted to God, knowing He comes first. In the lives of monks, a motto that appears often on monastery walls is “God alone.” Even the holiest monk finds this gift to be a daily challenge. It is easy when immersed in the joys of the Christmas Season to say or to sing, “O, come let us adore Him.” But, what about every day? And in every way? That requires daily prayer and daily recommitment. The Magi bring strange, yet critically significant, gifts to the newborn child, the Christ-Child, son of Mary, and the Son of God. We Christians are to see our lives as gifts ... to God and others. We are to reaffirm that our lives are gifts to be laid down before our God. At Christmas, God once again gives Jesus to us ... to teach us and to save us. In the Eucharist we celebrate at each and every Mass, God makes this tangible and real. Let’s prepare for these gifts from our wonderful, all-loving God.