Fr. Charles Irvin
Epiphany [B] 2015 Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
The wondrous truth we celebrate during this time of Christmas is that God in His love has journeyed from the heavens above all the way down to us. We will never comprehend that stupendous journey, the enormity of God’s love for us, a love that is infinite in its length, heighth, and depth. Love will not rest until it achieves union and rests in intimacy. And so God in His quest is here, not only here among us but living deep within us. That is the story of Christmas and Epiphany. What is not of this world has entered into our world, and not only into our world but into us.
We know that Christmas-time is the busiest time of the year for travelling. It is the time when we reunite with our families and return to our roots, when we go back to where we came from in order renew our understandings of who we are and resurrect our youthful hopes and dreams. In the ordinary days of our years we can lose ourselves in the busy-ness of business. We can lose our vision, blinded as we are by the glitter and glitz of this world’s cheap offerings of what we eventually we come to realize are nothing but fools gold. It is all, we eventually discover, nothing but bargain basement happiness. Christmas takes us out of all of that. Christmas gives us the gift of vision, seeing things in God’s light. Isn’t that what the Star of Bethlehem is all about?
When we travel we go to our maps, we call up MapQuest on our computers, and we enter our destinations into our GPS systems. But what are we looking for? In the words of the immortal Yogi Bera, “If you don’t know where you are going you might not get there.” So, we might ask: “Do I really know what I want and how to get there? What sort of a spiritual MapQuest am I using in my travel, in my journey through life?
Today’s Gospel account begins with the question of the Wise Men: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? Where do we find Him?” Many people in the world around us ask that same question. Perhaps some have asked you that question. The question “Where do we find Him” has within it a quest, a searching, a journey. The word “question,” we must note, has within it the word “quest.”
We all have our own quests, our own journeys that we are making through life. What are we looking for, material things or spiritual things, things that will last or things that won’t last? What is material won’t last, what is spiritual is everlasting. What is material eventually leads to darkness; what which is spiritual leads us into God’s light, a light that has overcome darkness that surrounds us. What is spiritual frees us, what is material captures us. For us, the question is not what we are looking for but rather who we are looking for.
Epiphany is all about movement, all about our journey. Epiphany calls us, like the Magi, into what appears to be mysterious. Herod, a Jew, had access to the Jewish scriptures but ignored their revelation. The Magi had access to what the forces of nature revealed to them and then acted on what the stars revealed to them. Their journey was guided by a spiritual other-worldly light, the Star of Bethlehem. The Star of Bethlehem was their heavenly GPS system guiding them to the destination they were seeking. It brought them to the One they were questing.
Herod the king was blinded in the darkness of his jealously and hate. The Magi, who were themselves kings, sought the kingship of God. The Magi made their journey to seek the King of the Jews. Herod, a Jew, sought to kill the King of the Jews, the King who was sent by God not only to the Jews but to all of the peoples of this world. That is why at Christmas we celebrate the birth of the King of the Jews. At Epiphany we celebrate the birth of Christ the King of us all, Jew and gentile alike.
Ours is a journey of hope, a hope that is given substance by our faith in Jesus Christ. The journey of the Wise Men¸ you see, wasn’t just their own. Their journey is ours also. We are fellow travelers with those Wise Men. Wise men today still seek Him.
Ours is a life-time journey. We seek not simply to find Jesus but to journey through throughout our lives with Him. After all, having risen from the dead in His Spirit-filled humanity He ascended into heaven. His goal was to return to His Father in heaven who sent him first to us. His mission is to bring us back home to our Father along with Him. It is through Him, with Him, and in Him that we are returning back home to our Father in heaven, the Father who gave us life in the first place. Because of Jesus we make our way through this world’s darkness filled with God’ gift of hope. All journeys begin with hope. Hope is one of the powers God gives us.
Hope, we must remember, isn’t simply wishful thinking. Hope isn’t simply a nice feeling. Hope is a virtue, a power, a capacity that is a gift of God, one of the many gifts our Father in heaven has given us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Without hope we do not act. Every decision we make is based on hope. Without hope we are paralyzed. Without hope we are powerless. Without hope we are unable to act. Without hope we are victimized and imprisoned.
The Magi are a symbol of our own journeys, journeys to the home from which we came, journeys back home to God our Father. We cannot claim that we do not know the way or do not know how to get there. Following in Jesus’ way of living, seeing the truth that He gives us, and living life in loving union with Him is not our destination. It is rather our journey. We are empowered by the hope that He gives us.
The Magi brought the Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each one of us, however, has a more precious and valuable gift, one that Jesus died for. The infinitely precious gift we can give is the gift or our love. Perhaps that is why God came to us as a little new-born baby. Who could ever not love a vulnerable baby? Who could not love a God who presents Himself to us in such tender vulnerability, both when He was born among us and when He died among us offering His love to you and me?
May you and I join the Wise Men both in their journey and in giving our gifts of love to the One who is God’s gift to us.