The feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ that we have celebrated stressed the identity of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, Son of God made flesh. Today’s feast, the Epiphany of the Lord, celebrates the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ as the Light that illumines and gives life to all nations. Rightly have the Vatican II Council Fathers called Jesus Christ “Lumen Gentium,” the “Light of all nations.”
In the Nicene Creed we profess that Jesus Christ is “God from God, Light from Light”. We are celebrating the fact that through the Birth of Jesus Christ, God the true Light shines now on all nations, on every one of us, to dispel the darkness of our lives and to bring us life. What God says to Jerusalem through the prophet Isaiah as we read in today’s first reading applies to all nations, cities and peoples of the world: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” We can put our names in the place of Jerusalem and hear God tell us to rise up in splendor and turn to Christ our Light who now shines upon every one of us. Given that the light of Christ shines on all, we can now take seriously what St. Paul says in today’s second reading: “the Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
The Magi in today’s Gospel, like us, hear their invitation to rise in splendor and turn to the glory of God that shines upon us in the newborn Jesus Christ, God-man and King of the universe. Their disposition and their actions are what every Christian of every era and every nation should imitate. Having heard the Word of God spoken to them, they set out following the star, the guiding light of Christ. As they put it, “we saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” This is clearly an attitude of those who know that they are loved by God, and they strive to encounter the God of love, whose initiative it is to come to us in the first place.
Following the star, the guiding light of Christ, the Magi arrive at the place where the child Jesus is, and they are filled with joy. The presence of Jesus brings joy and peace, signs of the salvation that he brings. It is important to remark what the Magi did before the child Jesus: “they prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Following their example, we are shown that our call is to worship God and do Him homage. Our first duty of religion is to worship God. There is nothing that should have priority over this. This is the rule that St. Benedict left to his followers, and it should also be a defining standard of every Christian.
The worship that we owe to God involves also making an offering to him. The Magi offered him gold, which is a symbol of his kingship, frankincense representing his priesthood, and myrrh for his Sacred Passion. The greatest gift of offering that we can give to our Lord is the gift of ourselves. St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” (Romans 12:1) Offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice pleasing to God means that we have to live a life of holiness, acknowledging our need of salvation from God. It means living a life of labor of love for the glory of God and for the good and salvation of our neighbors. We know that we are like St. Paul who writes in today’s second reading in his Letter to the Ephesians, “You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit…”
In different ways, the stewardship of God’s grace has been given to each one of us for the benefit of others, the members of Christ’s body, the Church. To discover this and to be able to serve God properly, we need to rise and turn to Christ our Light, whose glory shines upon us and who guides us on our way. The glory of Christ shines most resplendently in the Holy Eucharist, where he waits for us and continues to reveal himself to us. He reveals to us who we are and what our mission should be. We need to join the procession of the Magi and all the saints in the journey to the Lord who meets us.
We can best exercise the stewardship of God’s grace, given to us for the benefit of others, by living like the saints who are still God’s true “stars,” true light that illumines the night of this world. Jesus said to his disciples in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, “You are the light of the world.” Jerusalem is depicted as the lighthouse for our nations, our families, parishes and communities. Our lives should be a sort of lighthouse, like a star illuminating this world and leading others to Christ, who is the real Light of the world.
How has God spoken to and guided me along my faith journey? When am I “greatly troubled” by the power of the Lord? Like the wise men, do I persevere in my search for Jesus?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 15, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.