Epiphany Of The Lord
Theme of the week: God reveals himself to believers and non-believers alike, so that all may inherit His Kingdom.
At the feast of Epiphany, we celebrate the revelation of our Lord to the non-believers.
The historical background of the First Reading is the period when the Jews had just returned from their exile to Babylon. The sight that confronted them upon their return must have been rather disheartening – their city ruined and the temple destroyed. This passage offers the people a word of encouragement – that the Lord will once again lead them to greatness. Significantly, as the Jews renewed their relationship with God in verse 6, they are joined by Gentiles coming from Midian, Ephah and Sheba, coming with gifts to pay homage to the Lord. In-line with the theme of Epiphany, verse 6 presents the subtle revelation that both Jews and Gentiles, believers and non-believers alike, shall inherit the Kingdom of the Lord. The Jews do not believe in the universality of salvation, instead believing that only those who were members of the Jewish religion may be saved. This is not unlike what some Christians believe today, that only members of the Christian religion may be saved. That non-believers shall inherit the Kingdom is a significant teaching not just for the Jews of Biblical times, but also to many of us modern day Christians. More on this later.
The Second Reading captures the very essence of the Feast of Epiphany. What the First Reading merely hinted, the Second Reading boldly proclaimed: that salvation is offered to believers and non-believers alike. In particular, verse 6 tells us that “the Gentiles [non-believers] have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”.
The Gospel tells the story of the Magi (or wise men) from the east coming to pay Jesus homage, gifting Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts are highly significant as they embodied Christ’s identity and mission:
- Gold, the king of metal, signifies Christ’s Kingship.
- Frankincense are incense used in religious worship and hence signifies Christ’s Divinity.
- Myrrh is a spice used for embalmment of dead bodies. It is an odd gift to mark the birth of a baby; but carries great significance in this case as it signifies Christ’s Passion, i.e. His suffering and death.
We do not know where exactly these Magi came from, but what we do know is that they are Gentiles and in-line with the message of Epiphany, they are among the first people to accept Jesus as Lord. In contrast, King Harod (a Roman, and hence a Gentile too) conspired with the Jewish chief priests to try and harm the child Jesus. From this popular Christmas story, we learn that one does not earn salvation through one’s racial, cultural or even religious heritage; rather we are saved by what we believe and how we live out those beliefs. To us modern day Christians, Epiphany reminds us not to make the same mistake as the early Jews, by assuming that salvation is God’s exclusive gift to us alone.
Let us pause and reflect on this message for a moment: As a believer, do I help fulfil Christ’s mission of universal salvation in my daily life? Do I help the people around me feel the presence of Christ? For non-believers, Christ can come in the form of simple gestures of goodwill – a warm embrace or a helping hand in times of need, or even just a simple smile. Let us bring others closer to God so that all may inherit His Kingdom.
Have a blessed New Year. Amen.