1. The word Epiphany means manifestation, which is defined as being made evident to the senses or made obvious to the understanding. Usually when we think of Epiphany, we remember the Three Kings or Magi who brought gifts to Jesus. This feast, however, is really not about the three Magi. It is about Jesus and His manifestation. But what about Jesus is being manifested, made evident to our senses or made obvious?
2. The key of course is found in the Holy Scriptures. In the ancient tradition of the Church, there are actually three Gospel readings associated with the feast of Epiphany. One of them of course is the visit of the Magi. The others, which we will hear the next two Sundays, are the Baptism of the Lord and the Wedding Feast at Cana. All of these Gospels indicate something about Jesus being made evident to the senses.
3. In the Wedding Feast at Cana, Jesus reveals His power over creation in the changing of the water into the wine. In the Baptism of the Lord, the Spirit rushes upon Jesus, the heavens open and the voice is heard identifying Jesus as the Beloved Son of God. In the Story of the Magi, a star arises which reveals Jesus as the newborn King of Israel. To the majority of the onlookers, Jesus was just another baby born in Bethlehem. Having been born in a stable and given a feedbox for His bed, Jesus did not appear very special. Yet to those who were paying attention- the shepherds who saw the angelic host in the heavens and the Magi who observed the star at its rising, they learned that Jesus was indeed something more. In fact, after they had seen what they saw, they could not unsee it.
4. The manifestation that the Feast Epiphany celebrates is that Jesus was revealed as the Son of God, the rightful King of Israel, the Savior of the World. Before the people of Israel begged God for a human king, God alone was their king. In spite of the greatness of both King David and King Solomon, all the kings without exception failed in holiness. Many of those kings whom human history might regard as successful, the Bible dismisses with the words they did evil in the sight of the Lord (too many places to list). Now in Jesus the kingship is put right again- a human king in the line of David, but one who is Mighty God, and Ruler of the Universe, whom even the stars must honor.
5. In the Feast of Epiphany we recall that Jesus is revealed as King and Lord not just of the Chosen People of Israel, but for the whole world. We listened to the words of Saint Paul to the Ephesians the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Ephesians 3:6). When Simeon held Jesus in his arms he exclaimed to God: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel (Luke 2:30-32). Why else would the Magi have been given a sign, except that God wanted them to know the truth about our Lord? It is not just so that the prophecy will be fulfilled that the caravans would come bearing gifts. It is that the whole world would sing the praises of the Lord.
6. Note that God used the means by which the Magi would see and understand in revealing Himself and the salvation which Christ would bring. There is a saying that in every culture is the seed of the Gospel. For the Magi, God used the star; for the indigenous people of Mexico, the Lord sent the Blessed Mother and the image on the Tilma. To each person who searches for the truth, God will send His message that Jesus is Lord and God and that He alone is the Savior of the world.
7. Such a revelation of God’s desire to save all people- well not a revelation only of God’s will but of the actual fact that God is saving us and has appeared to save us should fill us with gratitude and joy, just as it did the Magi who followed the star. The same Lord who manifested Himself to them is revealed to us.
8. Even though this feast is about what God has done for all of us through His Son Jesus, we cannot help noticing that not everyone received the message. The star which the Magi followed was visible to everyone. But not everyone followed it. The scribes who advised King Herod had ready knowledge that the Messianic King would be born in Bethlehem, but they missed meeting the actual Jesus. Herod was jealous and intended to do all in his power to kill Jesus without even bothering to know Him. Not everyone gets it. In the sacraments, God makes readily available to our senses the presence of Christ, such as in the Eucharist. But not all receive the message or recognize Jesus in the breaking of the Bread. It requires faith, which is also a gift from God, albeit one which we must exercise. It requires pure hearts, hearts intent on finding the Truth and following it.