World literature is filled with stories of "the search" - the voyages of explorers, the hunt for hidden treasure, the quest for the Holy Grail or the fountain of youth, and the never-ending search in the hearts of all for quality of life, for freedom and justice, and for peace.
The Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord epitomizes all of the longings in the human heart for intimacy with God. The Hebrew Scriptures were filled with promises about the coming of the Messiah. For the people, this meant liberation from oppression, from enemies, from poverty and slavery. But word of this promise filtered through to foreign nations, and touched a universal need for redemption and reconciliation.
So we find three astrologers - (or wise men, or kings) - from the East, from foreign lands, arriving in Jerusalem in search of a new-born king. The event became a part of the earliest Christian tradition, and has been celebrated ever since in all parts of the world.
The search goes on, even in our own time. People hunger for truth, for a sense of the nearness of God, for an understanding of the mysteries of life. They tend, so often, to look in the wrong places; they fail to recognize the face of God in ordinary circumstances.
We imagine that the three kings must have found it incredible that the long-awaited Messiah would be born in obscurity and poverty. But with simple faith, they acknowledged Him and offered their gifts.
We can be so easily misled in our search for God; we look for miracles, for visions, for extraordinary manifestations. And all the while, God continues to show Himself in very ordinary ways: in the quiet heroism of those who suffer patiently; in the manifest heroism of those who risk their lives to save others; in the vigilance of those who defend our land and our values; in the gentle compassion of those who seek out the poor and the hungry; in the day by day faithfulness of spouses, of workers, of leaders, of scientists, of advocates of all kinds, in all segments of our society.
The Christmas season comes to an end much more quickly than all of our preparations for its arrival. So we need to reflect over and over again about the lessons we are taught at Christmas. Each of us has, to one degree or another, given ourselves over to God's plan for our lives. Day by day we renew that commitment of faith and trust, even though we often find that God's ways are not our ways.
We do not always understand where He is leading us. We frequently wonder why certain things happen, why our own plans don't work out. There are moments when we are tempted to think that our faith in Him has been betrayed, that He really has forsaken us and is not listening or caring any more. We feel like giving up; we want to stop praying.
The Epiphany reminds us that God manifests Himself to us in the most unforeseen and unexpected circumstances. This feast of the Epiphany arose early on in the Church to fill out the meaning of Christmas. It was the feast to celebrate the manifestation of the Incarnation to the whole universe. It embraced the fuller dimensions of the role of the Word-made-flesh - His coming to bring the nations together in peace, His coming to reveal the Father, His coming to change almost miraculously the quality of life for all people.
This is the time for new beginnings and resolutions - for a fresh start. Let's get back to basics for our resolutions. It is time to stop talking about how much we love one another and to really start showing that we do - and to continue to do so. Only then will we be able to tear apart the barriers that separate us, and come together as the family that God meant us to be. Only then can we truly be a people of hope within whom the Spirit lives and breathes.
The Good News of Christmas and Epiphany is "Emmanuel", "God-with-us!" We need only the light of strong, unwavering faith to see Him, to find Him, to serve Him in the people around us, the circumstances of our everyday living. We need only to believe in God's love for us - His unconditional, relentless love - and then we will more often recognize His presence and His power in sunrise and sunset, in storm and calm, in the faces of children and wisdom of the elderly, in moments of elation and heart-break. We will see His radiance and warmth behind every cloud of sorrow or failure that darkens our days.
Like the magi, our search goes on - but so does Epiphany! He is never far away, never hidden for those who look with faith.