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This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word epiphany means an unexpected manifestation/revelation or a sudden intuitive leap of understanding. Our Gospel for this feast is the visit of the Magi from the East to the new born Christ child. The Magi were Gentiles not Jews, so this Gospel celebrates the manifestation of God in Christ to the whole world. It reminds us of the universality of God’s savific will --- that God wants everyone to be saved. This was St. Paul’s message in our second reading today from his letter to the Ephesians: “………the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” The universality of God’s saving will would have been a startling idea for the Jews, as well as for many of the early Christians. And yet, God planned this from the beginning. Thus, this feast celebrates not just a past event, but an ongoing reality. God continues to offer salvation to all people for all time.
On a tangentially related note, the Gospel story of the visit of the Magi has through time been infused with more details than perhaps any other story in the scriptures. Over the centuries we have made the Magi all men. We have made them Kings. We have said there were three of them, and we have even given them names. None of these details, however, are part of the original story. This should remind us that when we read the scriptures we need to be open to what they really say and not what we think or want them to say.
In our first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, the prophet offers a message of hope. Jerusalem’s time of exile will come to an end, and the glory of the Lord will once again shine on her.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. I believe that epiphanies or experiences of God’s presence still occur in our world and in each of our lives. When have you felt God’s unexpected presence in your life?
2. How would you respond to someone who suggested that God’s offer of salvation was limited to just a chosen few?
3. Were you surprised that in this Gospel, the Magi weren’t Kings, that there may have been more or less than three of them, and that they didn’t have names?