Feast of the Epiphany - The Light Has Come

Epiphany seems to have more sound to it than Christmas. At Christmas, we gather around the crib looking with silent wonder at the newborn infant.  Shepherds arrive having heard about the child from the angels. The scene is depicted in art and our home and church mangers as quiet and peaceful. The choir sings "Silent Night." Hushed tones, a sleeping infant and silent admirers.

Now Epiphany is beginning and it takes several forms. Magi come from afar and later Jesus, in another epiphany, is baptized by the preacher John. The hushed-tones of Bethlehem now shift to explosive manifestations about Jesus.  The magi cause quite a stir with their arrival at Herod's palace, and their question about the "newborn king of the Jews." And next week, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we will hear the voice from heaven announce, quite emphatically: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

We hear hints in today's Gospel of what awaits Jesus. Already, in his infancy, the political powers feel threatened by him and Herod would do everything he could to get rid of him. Immediately following today's story Mary and Joseph, warned by an angel, flee to Egypt with their child (2:13-15). Herod will unleash his wrath on the innocents by attempting to eliminate any future rival for his throne (2:16-23).
The poor and those considered to be "outsiders" are frequently victimized and abused by the powerful and the "haves" of the world.

Epiphany awakens us today from any glow that might remain from our Christmas celebrations. It celebrates the manifestation of the Incarnation to the whole universe. It embraces 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, His coming to be a light in the darkness.

One simple fact is very clear: the presence of Jesus cannot be contained or hidden. Epiphany celebrates this fact. Just as we are called to sing out for joy with the Christmas angels, so also are we called to be, in our own time, His magi, and His star. We must make Him manifest. We must give witness in our words and in our actions to our faith in Him as Lord and Savior. We must not be "private" about our faith; we must not be ashamed to profess our love and loyalty for Jesus in front of others. We must not be passive in the struggle for peace and justice.... We must reflect this light within the darkness.

2016 was another year of turmoil:  for the world community and for the Church at large.

In the world community, we still face the good, the bad and the ugly. We point to the terrible evils that exist in our world:  the destructive powers of suffering and death that are experienced from the forces of war and of nature ...and even more significantly, the inexplicable injustices and inhumanity that exist within mankind itself:  the continued rise of a new and horrific force of terrorism and the seeming ineffective efforst to end it; the continuing exploitation of the poor and the marginalized in society, and the frightful inequalities in our society based on race or color or sex.  How does one find the saving presence of God in the midst of such a world?  What can we do as individuals and communities to stop the madness?

It was a year of turmoil for the Church as well, much of which still lingers within our hearts and souls from years past. We are still in the midst of crisis: a lack of faith in our leadership, the continuing public exposure of clergy abuse, the misuse of ecclesiastical power, and the ruin of the careers, the ministries and the lives of many. As parishes and schools are closed or merged, calls from the laity for a stronger voice in the life of the Church are met with fear and apprehension - in many instances with rejection. Our people – and now, even our leadership, continue to be polarized into separate camps.  How does one find unity and communion in the midst of such chaos?

It is difficult for the Light of Christ to shine through this kind of atmosphere and we might well be tempted to look around as we begin this New Year and ask: "Why bother?" But in the final analysis, we know that we are all responsible for the stewardship of the gifts God has given us.

The Epiphany proclaims the Christ and reveals Him to all the nations. That revelation demands a mission, beginning with his Baptism. And that mission continues within and through each of us because of our baptism.

We have a choice: we can be either optimistic or pessimistic. We can be hope-filled or despairing. We can trust in the abiding presence of our God or feel helplessly lost and alone. We can sit along the sidelines, passively and fearfully, or we can accept the challenge of our own baptism and take ownership of the Gospel. Our choice will, of course, fashion the spirit in which we spend each day of the coming year. It will also have an impact on those around us, and, ultimately, on the quality of life in our world.

So, we reflect today on how much our lives are guided by the world's way of judging and acting. The world looks for power, influence, guidance and ways of behaving that are frequently contrary to the Gospel message.  Christ can be found in humble circumstances, surprising places and, by the world's standards, among the least important. This feast celebrates God's coming to "outsiders," the very people that raise suspicions and distrust among "insiders."

God's hospitality reaches beyond our usual borders and touches all people. For God, there is no exclusive "in crowd" - we are all inside.

Each day of this New Year will give us an opportunity to celebrate life, to share love, to enkindle hope. It will provide new occasions for service to others, for compassion and understanding, for listening and learning. Each day will bring a challenge to each of us - to take what we have experienced, what we have been given… and to consciously work to complete His mission: to re-create the face of the earth into a world where all human life is always defended, where the poor and outcast are made welcome, where those held bound by sickness, disease or hatred are set free, and where all can come to know God's all-embracing love.

For those of us who believe in God's gift of His Son Jesus, there is only one choice.